I'd purchased this book in London and thought I'd left it at home there when we moved to Abu Dhabi. So, imagine how glad I was to find it yesterday amongst my Abu Dhabi books. The idea behind 'The Amazing Story Generator' by Jason Sacher is that it 'triggers random, playful, and profound associations that will help launch your next great story. Simply flip the pages to combine three different story elements and create intriguing plotlines'.
So, I've given it a go this morning and randomly flipped it open and these are the elements I got:
I didn't use the same structure of the elements that would have been a story about the oldest man in the world who on New Year's Eve plans the perfect murder. Instead, I mixed and matched the elements and changed them around. And here's what I came up with:
On New Year’s Eve he’d have been gone for nearly two weeks now. The posters were beginning to curl at the edges, the leaking rust of the poles slowly seeping into the paper making each seem as if framed in a brackish brown border. It had only just stopped raining and Mara was taking this as a sign that something was going to be different today. She was tired of the rain, the people, the bloody posters. Hell, she was tired of everything and she thought it was about time there was some news. Any news. Even bad news. Anything, she thought, would be better than this waiting game of nothingness.
Her eyes were drawn back to the poles. With the sun well and truly up, the posters were tanning a colour that reminded Mara of old treasure maps she’d see in museums when she was a little girl. She hated museums now, or anything old for that matter, and she hadn’t and wasn’t planning to step into a museum ever again. Not if she could help it. She’d done enough of old things and it was time to sweep the past away, and start fresh. But not yet, not until this Mazen business was over, with Mazen preferably dead. Not yet, not yet, not yet she kept repeating to herself like a broken, or perhaps reassuring mantra, but soon. Yes soon, she thought. Mazen would be found and she would have what she wanted. And then she’d show them; each and every one of them. She had plans, not for a perfect murder. She was done with that kind of thing. She had 'Mara' plans on the lines of a ‘Mara makeover’ just like the ones they gave in those TV shows where they changed people into glamorous ones, like superstars, so that you hardly recognised yourself when the experts were done with you. She would get new teeth and new boobs, extensions too. She could get anything she wanted once this was all over. New clothes, new car, new house, new everything. But bloody Mazen had to be found first and found he must she thought for how far could the oldest man in the world really go?
Give it a go and let me know what you come up with. Better yet, post your story in the comments section or email it to us and we'll post. It's fun! Have a great weekend!
By Rana Asfour
Jeremy Banx is an award winning cartoonist. He has contributed to many magazines and newspapers, including the Private Eye, Punch, She, The Week, New Statesman, London Evening Standard and The Mail on Sunday. His strips have appeared in comics such as Oink! and Toxic!
Since 1989 he has been the pocket cartoonist for the Financial Times. In 2008 and 2011, he was voted Pocket Cartoonist of the Year by the Cartoon Art Trust. He has published books, designed floats for the carnival in Nice and made 156 short animated films based on his book ‘The Many Deaths of Norma Spittal’. The Derby winning thoroughbred racehorse Dr. Devious was named after one of his characters. He lives and works in Greenwich, London with his wife Elaine and has four children.
Jeremy recently released his first illustrated e-book entitled ‘Frankenthing’ a funny horror story for adults and children. The plot revolves around ‘Frankenthing’, a creature of ambiguous origins that Dr. Frankenstein brings back to life to serve as a companion for his other creation: mumbling, cat-allergic, Monster. The cast would not be complete without Igor, the castle cat, who has a score to settle with ‘Frankenthing’ and wreaks havoc in his attempts to re-kill him that soon puts the inhabitants of the castle in grave danger.
The book is not only humorous but witty and lighthearted as well, in spite of its abounding scenes of gore, snot and flying body parts. I loved it (For a full review see HERE).
Jeremy took the time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions BookFabulous emailed to him regarding his new book. Below is the full interview.
And silly ideas cropped up like making the Monster allergic to cats, which became really useful later on in the story. But there was no one ‘Eureka’ moment. It came in little bits, layer by layer, quite organically, till it started to become a world in which all sorts of ludicrous things could happen.
A good example of a complex one would be the scene were Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory is shaking like ‘…a wheelbarrow full of jellyfish rolling down a cobbled path’. Each element does something to crank up the visual story of just how wobbly the laboratory is. But sometimes I wanted them to be very simple and to the point. Such as when ‘Frankenthing was as scared as a vampire’s lunch.’
But children do need a framework of support. And you have to give them a happy ending, no matter how many dark places you have to go to to get there. Which isn’t to say that everything should go back to how it was at the beginning of the story. I don’t like the status quo to be preserved. I like my characters to be altered by their experiences.
I suppose my favourite character would have to be Frankenthing himself . For some reason I identify with him the most. I worry about his wellbeing. Getting him in and out of predicaments was always great fun. But I like Igor too, even though he is Frankenthing’s predicament for most of the story. He’s horrible but he’s highly motivated. There’s always something funny about characters who obsess.
The Monster is just a great lummox. I enjoyed playing around with his back story, to show there had been a lot more to him, especially as a significant part of it took place in the grave and at the undertakers.
Dr. Frankenstein is probably the character I have the least sympathy for. He’s selfish, thoughtless, egotistical, vain and smug. And he doesn’t have to do all the crazy things he does. He does them because he is fundamentally irresponsible and thinks only of himself and what interests him. He jokes with life. I really enjoyed revealing more and more of that aspect of him as the story progressed because at the beginning he seems quite nice.
My advice to anyone interested in self-publishing is just to do it. There’s plenty of advice on the web and free software. Forums are very useful. It’s nowhere near as hard as it may seem at first.
I think publishing is going towards e-publishing. There can’t be any doubt about it. I don’t think it will do away with traditional books. I think there’s room for both. And it’s ideal for self-publishing.
It was perhaps the most stimulating time I had working on the book. Because once I’d got over that hurdle and pared everything down to the bone and thought up some new ideas, I felt I had a plot that really worked.
And I’ve kept a lot of the stuff I discarded for future Frankenthing stories. That’s why there are references to Dracula’s castle and icons for werewolves in the map in the appendices at the back of the book.
But my next e-book will probably be a collection of stories based loosely (very loosely) on my parenting of my girls. Then there’s a sci-fi book, and then another Frankenthing. Perhaps not in that order.
I’ve got a few books on the go. I’ve just finished reading Daniel Defoe’s ‘Moll Flanders’, which I loved. I’m currently reading Rex Warner’s ‘The Aerodrome’; an odd book about a fascistic air force that takes over a typical English village. It was written in 1941 and it’s subtitled ‘a love story’. I’m also reading a book of Richard Feynman’s lectures on particle physics called ‘Six Easy Pieces’.
To contact Jeremy: twitter -(@banxcartoons) / www.banxcartoons.co.uk / email@example.com
by Rana Asfour
Sherlock Holmes Booklet Found In Scottish Attic
I can’t seem to get enough of all this re-emergence of long lost manuscripts, and previously published yet disappeared books that it makes my heart flutter. Thursday, it was Dr. Seuss, today it’s a small Sherlock Holmes booklet, last week were the stolen book collection returned to Italy. It seems that unless something is deliberately destroyed, it will ultimately find its way back to where it belongs. Of course, one hopes into the hands of those who will take better care in the future.
Today’s discovery, the Sherlock Holmes booklet, will most surely be a news item at our dinner table tonight. Lest we kid ourselves, or you the reader, that our dinner table conversations are those reminiscent of literary salons, I hasten to set you at ease: they’re not. We are ordinary, not only in our evening meal topics, but also in the fact that we, just as everyone else as it turns out, show the same interest when items that were considered to be lost forever suddenly turn up again. It’s a ‘human’ thing apparently.
Anyway, the 1,300-word Sherlock Holmes story was written in 1904 by the author on the occasion of raising money for a bridge in Silkirk (in Scotland) that had been destroyed by floods in 1902. The report mentioned that the person who found it said that it must have been lying under a pile of his books for nearly 50 years. Where do you think that pile of books was? In the attic, of course! So, I’ve decided, next time we move to a new house, I want an attic, they seem the quaintest places to nestle a treasure or two!
To read a full transcript of the Sherlock Holmes story, click HERE.
‘Amygdala’: A New Word & A Film!
Producer Jeannette Louie, aware of the term ‘Amygdala’ set about in 2013 to make an experimental short film named after this almond-shaped region of the brain that controls our emotional life. In the 10-minute short, amygdala is this Shamanistic mystical woman who knows so much and who feels everything. She is the power keeping our fears in perspective and it is her wisdom that allows us to distinguish between real threats and those that aren’t.
According to the film’s synopsis, ‘Amygdala is an experimental film that illustrates how the perception of fear operates by combining the lyrical tradition of a fairy tale with the vernacular nature of presenting scientific fact’ and the result is phenomenal. Personally, there I was with my free popcorn and my free water bottle treated to one of the most astonishing easy-to-grasp explanations to one the most complex topics in science and I left ‘getting it’.
When you think of the amygdala, you should think of one word: Fear. According to brainmadesimple.com, the amygdala is the reason we are afraid of things outside our control. It also controls the way we react to certain stimuli, or an event that causes an emotion, that we see as potentially threatening or dangerous. Conditions such as anxiety, autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias are suspected of being linked to abnormal functioning of the amygdala, owing to damage, developmental problems, or neurotransmitter imbalance.
The film was showing at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island campus at the weekend as part of the Imagine Science Abu Dhabi Film Festival. There were 34 short films, an art-science exhibition, and workshops. Unfortunately, it was at the same time that a severe sandstorm persisted over Abu Dhabi for those two days, so as far as I could tell, the attendance could have been much better. ‘Amygdala’ is available to watch on vimeo.
'What Pet Should I Get?': New Previously Unpublished Dr. Seuss Book To Be Released In July by Random House
Following the recent discovery of an original manuscript and sketches by beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, a new book by the late author will be published in July and at least two other titles are planned, publisher Random House announced Wednesday.
“What Pet Should I Get?” will be published on July 28, nearly 24 years after the author’s death. It will be the 46th book by the man whose publications have sold more than 650 million copies worldwide and appealed to generations.
For more on this story, click HERE
by Rana Asfour
Abdel Bari Atwan is currently editor-in-chief of online newspaper ‘Rai al-Youm’ and until very recently, held the position of former editor-in-chief of the pan Arab newspaper ‘Al Quds Al-Arabi’ in London for 25 years. As such, this puts him in the best place to explain what the recently declared Islamic State (IS) is all about and that is just what he dishes out in his latest release, ‘The Islamic State: The Roots, The Savagery, The Future’ published by Dar Al Saqi.
Abdel Bari Atwan’s new book is a revealing account that delves into the origins of the Islamic State and the recently declared ‘Khilafa’ or ‘Caliphate’ referred to by American Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as the biggest terrorist threat facing the United States.
The book also discusses the roots of this State, its ideological values, the nature of its powers and those that have helped shape it and the secret behind its sudden emergence and rapid ascension. The book also sheds light onto the State’s strengths and weaknesses, and its relationship with Al Qaeda with regards to their similarities and differences.
The writer sets out to reveal hidden aspects behind the persona of the self-proclaimed ‘Caliph’ Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, his upbringing and the factors that have shaped his personality, his relationship with Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and the truth behind how influenced he was by al-Zarkawi. The book proposes a new angle on the reason behind Baghdadi’s disagreement with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The book pauses to consider the sources of funding for and arming of the Islamic State based on Arab and Western sources and personal interviews with some of its key personalities. The book also monitors the State’s mighty media ‘empire’ and its widespread reach in the Islamic World and the secret behind the influx of youths to join its ranks.
Finally the book attempts to forecast the future of the ‘Islamic State’ and its ability to survive and realize its ambition of establishing ‘The Islamic Caliphate State’ by taking a closer look at the legitimacy of these aspirations and their feasibility on the ground.
This book is currently available only in Arabic, but according to the author's web page, it is expected to be translated into English some time this year.
Abdel Bari Atwan is the author of ‘The Secret History of al-Qa’ida’, ‘A Country of Words’, ‘After Bin Laden: Al-Qaeda, The Next Generation’. He was born in Gaza but has lived in London since 1979. For more on this writer, click HERE
For the first time ever Abu Dhabi will play host to the New York-based Imagine Science Film Festival (ISF), to be held in the capital Feb19-21 on the NYU Abu Dhabi Saadyiat Island campus. The satellite festival is presented in collaboration with NYUAD Arts Center, and NYUAD Institute and is open to the public.
The ISF in Abu Dhabi focuses on themes inspired by science occurring in the region including water, coral research, pearl culture technology and space exploration. Films will explore the way people reshape water and how it shapes us, the return of the pearl trade to Abu Dhabi via pearl culture technology, the fault lines that still jeopardize the coast, the corals which thrive in the Gulf, and the future of space travel from Abu Dhabi. Other programs move from the physical landscape of the region to the internal, where the shores of the mind may be eroded by time and illness, to the cusp of music, biology, and technology, and into the future of the Middle East and beyond.
The film festival includes a variety of film types including documentary, nonfiction, docu-fiction, experimental films, animation, and even raw science data. Included also, will be a special program of student films, an art-science exhibit (Experimental Records) and a variety of panels and workshops.
All Imagine Science Film Festival Abu Dhabi events are FREE but RSVP is required. To view the schedule and book tickets for the films, click HERE
By bringing new forms of scientific expression to Abu Dhabi, we aim to foster a dialogue between the sciences and the arts in parallel with the expanding cultural scene in the UAE - Alexis Gambis, Artistic Director & Founder of Imagine Science Films
Experimental Records Exhibit at The Arts Center At NYUAD
Opening Thursday February 19 at 7PM.
Viewing February 20 & 21, 2015/ 12-8PM.
Imagine Science Films will present the science-art exhibit EXPERIMENTAL RECORDS, produced in collaboration with The Arts Center at NYUAD and NYUAD Art Gallery. The exhibit explores all of the evolving ways in which we use technology to document the natural world. From archival ephemera to cutting-edge technology, the works explore our recorded experiences. How do we visualize data? How do we create narratives from this data to better understand our human experience? In addition to multi-media artwork, the exhibit will contain cutting edge research by NYU scientists in NYU SCENES, as well as archival materials.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announces The Mighty Six Titles On Its Short List
Here it is: the shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction which was announced Friday. The winner will be revealed May 6, in Abu Dhabi, during Abu Dhabi Book Fair which takes place May 3-7.
Stolen Books From 'Biggest Book Theft In Modern Memory' to Finally Be Returned to Italian Library
On Friday, German authorities handed to the Italians just over 500 stolen antiquarian books that had been taken from the historic Gerolamini Library in Naples between 2011-2012. The books are only a small part of the 2000 volumes that have gone missing from the library in what is dubbed as the biggest book theft in modern memory.
Former director of the library, Italian Marino Massimo de Caro, was convicted of the theft in 2012. The two most valuable books included in the collection are by Italian physicist Galileo Galilei, which alone are worth 200,000 euros.
For more background on this story, click HERE & HERE
'In Harm's Way: From al Qaeda Safe Houses to ISIS Incubators' A New Release by Yosri Fouda In Arabic
Egyptian Yosri Fouda is an investigative reporter, author and television host. In addition to his job as chief investigative reporter for Al-Jazeera TV, he was also their London Bureau Chief and the channel's star figure until his resignation in 2009. He has also worked for the BBC, Associated Press, ANN and ONtv. He co‑authored, with British journalist Nick Fielding, 'Masterminds of Terror: The Truth Behind the Most Devastating Attack The World Has Ever Seen' published in 2003 and 'Capture or Kill: The Pursuit of the 9/11 Masterminds and the Killing of Osama bin Laden' in 2012 also with Nick Fielding. Both books were published by Arcade Publishing in English.
Fouda not only broke the story on the ‘martyrdom video’ by 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah but he is the only journalist to exclusively interview the masterminds behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, almost thirteen years after the event, Fouda has finally released a book in Arabic titled 'In Harms Way: From Al Qaeda Safe Houses to ISIS Incubators' in which he tells, in the first part of the book, the details of how it was to be the person with the world's hottest most exclusive interview and what went on behind the scenes before the release of this explosive story to the outside world. The book presents evidences, testimonies, documents and photos.
From the exclusive to the treacherously dangerous, the second part of the book titled 'Crossing to the Unknown', is Fouda's account crossing the border from Syria to Iraq in the company of smugglers, in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq. Fouda's documentation, narrative style, attention to detail, and the insistence on high ethical standards of journalism in the toughest of times, renders his work an important addition to better understanding the evolution of the global Jihad movement that has allowed Daesh to become what it is today in the midst of what has been described as the Arab Spring.
This is Yosri Fouda's second release in Arabic, his first being a series called 'Sirri lil-Ghaya' a seven part sequel which includes a collection of carefully selected investigations from his Al-Jazeera talk show of the same name. This collection was published by the World Book Publishing in Beirut.
Yosri Fouda holds a bachelors degree in mass communication from Cairo University and a Masters degree in TV journalism from the American University in Cairo graduating in 1992. After a brief stint as an Assistant Lecturer at the university, he went on to obtain a diploma in TV production from the Netherlands. He now lives in Cairo.
Yay! BookFabulous.com made it into this week's AbuDhabi Week Magazine. A magazine for all things happening in Abu Dhabi. Thank you Laura Volpi!
Judges of The Folio Prize 2015 have announced the eight titles on the much anticipated shortlist:
'10:04' by Ben Lerner (Granta)
'All My Puny Sorrows' by Miriam Toews (Faber)
'Dept. of Speculation' by Jenny Offill (Granta)
'Dust' by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Granta)
'Family Life' by Akhil Sharma (Faber)
'How to Be Both' by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
'Nora Webster' by Colm Tóibín (Viking)
'Outline' by Rachel Cusk (Faber)
Sponsored by The Folio Society, celebrated publisher of beautiful editions of the world’s greatest books, the prize recognises the best English-language fiction from around the world, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin. Rich and varied, with writers originating from North America, the UK, Ireland, Kenya and India, the shortlist comprises a wide range of international voices. Familiar prize-winning names - Ali Smith and Colm Tóibín - are joined by critically-acclaimed newer voices such as Ben Lerner and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor.
Independent publishers make a strong showing, with Faber and Granta representing three titles each, while the world's largest English language publisher, Penguin Random House, represents the remaining two places on the list. A number of these books are explicitly engaged with the process of writing itself, with each in its own way triumphantly affirming the unique role storytelling plays in making sense of our complex world.
Shortlisted authors are now in the running for the £40,000 overall prize, which will be awarded at a special ceremony at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel on Monday 23 March.
For over 65 years The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world's greatest books. With specially commissioned illustrations, many editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. There are hundreds of Folio Society editions currently in print covering fiction, biography, history, science, philosophy, children's literature, humour, myths and legends and more. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions are created to last for generations. Folio Society titles can be bought from www.foliosociety.com, by telephone on 0207 400 4200, by visiting The Folio Society Bookshop, 44 Eagle Street, London, WC1R 4FS, or from selected retail partners.
by Rana Asfour
Abdullah Al-Jumah, author of 'Tales of a Saudi in Europe' - (حكايا سعودي في أوروبا) will be a guest speaker on several panel sessions at the Emirates International Festival of Literature in Dubai next month.
Al Jumah is scheduled to speak in a panel entitled 'Breaking New Ground' in which the panelists, including Kamal abdel-Malek and Lulwa Al Mansouri, will discuss breaking new grounds in Arab Literature writing.
Al Jumah will also share a panel with authors Talal Salem Al Sabri and Nasir Al Dhaheri, all of whom share the passion for travel writing with Al Jumah. The panelists will discuss the various writing styles and techniques they adopted for their books and how they feel about modern day travel writing and its space and appeal in today's market.
His book 'Tales of a Saudi in Europe' talks about his adventures travelling in Europe and his boarding experiences in various hostels along the way. I found it to be charismatic writing; fresh and light-hearted.
Book is in Arabic only & sold at Virgin Megastores.
For more on Abdullah Al Jumah's sessions at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and how to book, click HERE.
by Rana Asfour
Qúnzi for skirt
kùzi for trousers
wàzi for socks
by Rana Asfour
Pulitzer Prize winning author Harper Lee is to release a second work of fiction 55 years after her first (and only) work of fiction 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. The new novel, 'Go Set A Watchman', features an adult Scout, her father Atticus and many of the other familiar characters of Lee's first book 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.
The new novel is apparently not a sequel and was actually written in the 1950s before 'To Kill a Mockingbird' although those in the know have said it is set 10 years after that book. The reason it took so long to publish is that Lee had believed that the manuscript had been long lost. 'Go Set a Watchman' will hit shelves this summer. It will be published by HarperCollins in America whereas UK and Commonwealth rights to the book have been acquired by Penguin Random House.
According to media sources the reclusive 88-year-old author who withdrew from the public eye right after the fame of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is now profoundly deaf, almost totally blind and lives in an assisted-living facility in the US.
The news has been labeled by some media sources as 'a bolt from the blue'. Guess I know what I'll be re-reading next or maybe I'll just re-watch the film adaptation.
For more on this story, see Here.
by Rana Asfour
Many people I know have drawn up a rough list of what books they want to read this year, making sure to leave a few empty spaces for new titles that will be released further down the year for authors they already know and like or even for those books that will come highly recommended by friends and family or experts whose judgment they value. What is most interesting to observe, and this is in no way based on any scientific research on my part, is that many of the people I have spoken to have listed one or two books re-reads on there. This, I think, is brilliant.
Reading is great. No argument there. Reading a broad range of titles expands the mind and offers insight into a world of ideas that enrich your understanding of the entire world from the comfort of your own surroundings. However, reading is also one way we learn about ourselves. We are continuously changing, growing and evolving; from the way we talk, to the way we dress to the way we pass judgment on the world around us. As much as we hate to admit it to ourselves, humans are fickle creatures. What we like today, we may secretly abhor the next and what we vowed we would never do in the future is refuted by today’s circumstances. We change and with it our perspective does too.
I had previously written about my experience re-reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ (here) and how the way I understood it changed each time I had; first as a teenager, then as a love-struck 20-year-old and now in my not-so-young-anymore age. It was not only proof (as if proof were needed) of how very good writing transcends time but it was fascinating to experience the realization of how much I, well my perspective, had changed as well. Even though reading is often a solitary activity, one is never really alone reading a book. It is you and your life and all that makes up that life that holds that book with you. When one reads, one is essentially allowing for a sanctioned invasion of the mind’s privacy. Think again if you thought reading was a passive activity!
So, ‘To re-read or not to re-read?’ That is the question! And my answer is a guarded yes. Time is precious and unless the book title of choice is seriously worth it, and by that I mean if there is a feeling it will add value of any sort to one’s life when it is read again, then go for it. In certain books, as in life, there is a kind of beauty that is blinding in its force, mesmerizing even, that will take your breath away and leave you spellbound and hooked for life. However, there is another kind of beauty that is subtle, quiet, with a power in its insistence for attention. One might look away but is continuously being drawn for ‘one more look’ and that is what re-reading is all about.
So, I have made up a short list of some of the books that I re-read as an adult and some I continue to re-read not only for their enduring appeal but because of the precious memories they re-awaken as well. What book have you re-read?
by Rana Asfour
Angus (Scottish) and Sarah Moorecroft (half-English, half-American) sell their London home and move, with their twin daughter, Kirstie and dog Beany, to live in a light-keeper’s cottage located on the Gaelic ‘barely habitable island’ of ‘Eilean Torran’, (meaning Thunder Island) which Angus inherited from his grandmother. The move comes eighteen months after the tragic death of one of their twin daughters, Lydia, who fell from her grandparents’ top floor balcony in Devon while the family was there on holiday.
Since then Angus, an architect, has lost his job, and turned to drink to drown his sorrows although ‘a raging fire of anguish that could not be quenched, even with a bottle of whiskey a night, much as he tried’ continues to burn fiercely inside him. He is unusually keen to shuttle the family away as quickly as possible from London, and particularly from the police. Sarah, a freelance writer, has gone from ‘virtually a stage mother’ with tourists pointing at her beautiful perfect family to a woman who has spent most of the previous year ‘crying endlessly and wordlessly, night after night’. A part of Sarah blames herself for the event as she was supposed to be watching the children that night while her husband was away and yet she cannot quite seem to comprehend the details that lead to the accident. The surviving twin daughter, Kirstie, is suffering from depression and anxiety and has been locked ‘in an abyssal isolation of her own’ after the anguish of ‘losing her identical twin, her second soul’. Nicknamed the ‘Ice Twins’ by their family and the ‘Mischief Sisters’ by their friends at school, seven-year-old Kirstie is finding life very hard after Lydia’s death. What makes it even harder is that Kirstie had been on the balcony with her twin when she fell.
So, with the Moorcroft’s life in pieces, psychologically and financially, Angus and Sarah feel that their move to the remote island is just what is needed to bring the family together again in a bid to regain happiness and normalcy. Expectedly, things don’t quite work out that way and their difficulties on the island seem to increase rather than disappear as they had hoped. Besides the dismal shape they find the house in, and the atrocious Gaelic winds and constant rain, their surviving daughter’s psychological state seems to be rapidly deteriorating as she is convinced that her twin sister is not dead, but in fact lives with them in their new home. She starts to address herself as ‘we’ and has taken on most of the characteristics of her deceased twin. In a horrific moment, that sets the scene for what is to follow, she reveals to Sarah that a mistake had been in identifying the identity of the dead twin and that it was in fact ‘Kirstie’ that had died, not her twin ‘Lydia’. Kirstie has not fit well into her new environment and has made no friends at her new school and her classmates have started to nickname her ‘the ghost’. Matters are made worse when a play date on the island goes bone-chillingly wrong.
And so ‘stranded’ on their isolated island, in a house believed by the locals to be haunted, surrounded by dangerous mudflats (they need a boat to get to the mainland) the Moorecrofts are left to themselves to pick up the remnants of the their life. Readers start to learn more about Angus and Sarah; the details of their relationship, the similarities in their past (she with her domineering loud dad, him with his wife-beating one) and the niggling anxieties they harbor concerning the night that Lydia died as they each narrate their side of the story. Blame is thrown every which way and the details become blurred as Sarah digs up information to try and piece together the sequence of events prior to the accident that ultimately led to the death of her favorite twin.
Expectedly, none of the Moorecrofts are who they seem to be and secrets slowly start to reveal themselves as the reader scrambles to make sense of what is going on (can be very confusing in places) and gets hooked on a ‘whodunit?’ game. The suspense is amazing and the build-up is masterfully done. Readers will not be disappointed.
For fear of giving away too much and ruining the experience (I hate it when reviewers do that spoiler alert thing), I will say no more. It’s enough to say that ‘The Ice Twins’ is a very exciting thriller, spooky, creepy and great for readers who like to work at guessing the ending. Superbly written, with landscape descriptions that are not merely beautiful but they also do a great job in setting the mood and tone, vividly enhancing the imagination and upping the suspense. Brilliant. Loved it.