Monday, 29 April 2013

Book Review: Shoeless Joe

Shoeless Joe
By W.P. Kinsella 
Published by The Friday Project
ISBN - 9780007497478
Available in paperback and ebook

Shoeless Joe, which inspired the film Field of Dreams, is a delightful American fairy-tale of love, fighting for the American dream and baseball and has recently been give a new lease of life by The Friday Project.

Yes, this book is about baseball. 
But I'm not a fan of baseball, I hear you cry. Neither am I. 
But there's more to this book than baseball. 
Shoeless Joe is about following your dreams, magic realism and relationships. 

Ray Kinsella lives in a farm in rural America with his wife and young daughter. Baseball has always been in Ray's life especially when times are tough. He needs baseball more than ever when his mortgage payments start to slip. Ray is an Everyman - an average man who rises up against every day struggles. Sometimes faith doesn't have to be about religion but it can be about clinging onto the things you feel passionate about and don't want to lose.

Ray is on the verge of bankruptcy and has his brother-in-law lingering on the sidelines, waiting to snap up the farm. A voice tells Ray to build a baseball pitch on his land. He slaves away at the land and builds a baseball pitch. The ghosts of disgraced baseball players slowly disappear. Ray's sporting hero, Shoeless Joe appears along with the rest of his team who were all banned from baseball after a match-fixing scandal in 1919. Ray heads out on a road trip and along the way he picks up a fictionalised J.D Salinger and takes him on his journey of self discovery and baseball.

This book is sentimental but sometimes you need a comfort-blanket sort of book. It's nice to have a book that's about letting go of society's expectations and about being true to your self.

You can buy Shoeless Joe in either paperback or ebook from your favourite book retailer.

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Yesterday I went to the Get Writing conference held at the University of Hertfordshire. It was a great day full of informative talks about writing and the writing business, meeting folks from the internet and books. 

The first three pages of my novel-in-progress was shortlisted in the Get Writing competition. I am really chuffed with this as I have only been working on my novel since Christmas. Entering the competition also forced me into thinking about a working title. My novel is currently called 'The Complications of Overfishing.' I might ditch the title at some point but I like it at the moment. 

I haven't been writing as much I would like but I am hoping to get back on track - I don't want this novel taking four years to write and edit. This is what I have been up to for the past couple of weeks: 

Spring is finally here

First Pimms of the year

Walks in the countryside

Watching Arsenal play Everton

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Book Review: The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
By Caroline Smailes 
Published by The Friday Project
Available as Paperback and Ebook

Caroline Smailes is one of those authors that you can never guess what the next book will be about. Her latest novel, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, successfully weaves greek mythology through the everyday life of a teenage boy, Arthur Braxton. And I can tell you all right now that this one is the best Caroline's best book yet!

The reason I like reading Caroline's books is because they are edgy and honest. She creates characters who have real life problems, who are not from the posh parts of town and like us, and they are struggling to find a place in the world. Arthur Braxton has the usual teenage angst of school, girls and family life. He has to deal with his Dad's breakdown after Arthur's mother decided to pack her bags and go and live with a fella she 'reconnected' with on Facebook. He wants to escape and he ends up stumbling upon an abandoned Victorian bathhouse, which Caroline describes beautifully. He sees a girl swimming baked in the pool. His life is about to change.

Caroline's conversational style pulls you deeper into the story. Reading one more page or even one more chapter is never enough. This book will not let you go. It grips you even after closing the book. I finished this book last weekend and I still thinking about it now. This is a urban fairy tale that will pull at your heart strings but Caroline makes sure the book is full of humour in this tragic love story. If you liked Gods Behaving Badly then you are going to love The Drowning of Arthur Braxton.

I love the structure of the book. Caroline not only offers the viewpoint of Arthur but also includes the perspectives from the other characters, giving the reader the chance to find out about the lives of the other characters and how they all interlink to the wider story. In one of my favourite segments, Caroline uses the style of a script to tell the story of Delphina, Arthur's love interest. I also like the way the characters are split into four categories - earth, air, water and fire, depending on their relation to the world.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a book that will have you both laughing and crying. I'm looking forward to reading Caroline's next book.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is available from your favourite online or offline book retailer. 

The publisher kindly supplied me a copy of this book. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Guest Post: Caroline Smailes's Imaginary Bookshop

To celebrate this week's launch of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, published by The Friday ProjectCaroline Smailes has answered the Imaginary Bookshop questions and her answers are fabulous.

I will be reviewing The Drowning of Arthur Braxton later this week. Preview: It's great!


Hi Caroline, congratulations on the publication of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper.

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop? The lighthouse. That’s possibly a rubbish name for a bookshop, but I’m all for ‘saying what you see’.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located? In a lighthouse, but not a lighthouse by the sea or on rocks. My bookshop would be a lighthouse in the middle of a town. It would look wonky, some would tut at it, others would whisper that it’s an eyesore. Not everyone would want to step inside my bookshop. I would think it to be the most beautiful place in the world.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc. There would be disco balls, a roller-rink and power ballads from the 1980s available in headsets (free of charge). This would be on the top floor, so disco balls would emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and aid navigation to the shop. I fear that has nothing to do with books, but I’d quite like the top floor of my shop to host something a little bit different. There would be free cake in my bookshop, far too much cake, squishy sofas and people who liked to smile in my bookshop. The staff will love books and cake, there will be curves to hide in, as not everyone likes to be seen. (JB - Please can I have a job?)

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones? Possibly it being in a lighthouse, but mainly it would be a safe place, it would be an escape from the real world. My lighthouse would be open when it was both dark and light.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I’d possibly ditch ALL sections and the alphabetical ordering system. I’d have all the delicious books muddled together on shelves that curve around the walls. My bookshop would be about searching, about climbing spiral staircases to stumble on a gem, about taking the time to discover a new book. The books would be dusty and wanting to be taken home.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why? I don’t think I’d like a display table. I quite like the idea of all the books being equal, of them all waiting to be found. A display table would suggest that some of the books are better than others, that they deserve to be chosen before those waiting on the shelves. I’d like the finder to not have been influenced, for the exploration to be within their control.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
I’d like a Mad Hatter’s style tea party with Roald Dahl. Everyone would dress as a character from one of his books and we’d feast on huge cakes and drink tea from china cups. Mr Dahl would answer questions, then he’d read the first chapter of ‘Danny Champion of the World’ and the ‘Dirty Beards’ chapter from ‘The Twits’. The event wouldn’t be about selling books or a rushed frenzy for a signed copy. It would be about words and tea and cake. (Excellent choices!)

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say? I’d probably blush, stutter, then suggest a different book. I’d be absolutely rubbish at selling my own novels. But, if pushed, I’d ask if the customer believed in the power of love to bring redemption and hope to even the bleakest of childhoods. And if the customer nodded, I’d smile.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop? Never just one type, I’d have a selection: lemon drizzle with a crusted almond topping, Battenberg with additional marzipan, Christmas cake with cheese, Pavlova, tiny gingerbread people, individual portions of tiramisu, fig and almond cheesecake and a batch of pretty pastel macaroons.

CAROLINE SMAILES lives in the North West of England with her husband and three children. The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is her fifth novel. She can be found at and

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Book Review: Entertaining Strangers

My review of Jonathan Taylor's Entertaining Strangers is now up at The View From Here Magazine.

Preview: It's really really good.

You can read it here > Entertaining Strangers