Thursday, 31 December 2015

December's Reading

All of the books read in December were for review with either the review being forthcoming or the review is already on here.

I don't think there's a chance I will finish reading the two books I'm currently reading before midnight so I'm going to take a chance and publish my December reading before the month is out - I know, very controversial.

Books read in December


Learning to Speak America - Colette Dartford
This is a book about finding hope after a great loss. Lola and Duncan decide to buy a house in the Napa Valley which holds the potential to soothe their grief. You can read my review here. Colette also stopped by and took part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A.

American Housewife - Helen Ellis
This short story collection about the dark side of being a housewife is addictive, and full of dark humour. Put aside an afternoon to read this one as you won't be able to put it down. This book is out in 2016 so my review will be forthcoming.

Not That Easy - Radhika Sanghani
This book will have you laughing and cringing. Elli's antics as she stumbles through her journey towards love is hilarious. You can read my review here.

What We Left Behind - Robin Talley
Gretchen and Toni are 'the' couple at high school but things start to go wrong as they head to different cities for college. Can this relationship survive the ups and downs of college and being apart? My review is forthcoming and should be appearing in the next week or so.

Come back tomorrow for my top reads of 2015. See you in 2016!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas Card Captions

I have been thinking about getting into the Christmas card caption industry because it is easier than having to write 80k of words to form a novel.

Yes, I'm procrastinating. Yes, I should be redrafting my novel. Yes, this is more fun.


"Yummy, yummy, I'm going to eat you all," said Frosty

Little donkey, little donkey, would you like cat flu?

I couldn't find the litter tray

Wearing Xmas jumpers during sex is our way of spicing up our lives!

Put on another jumper because I'm there's no fucking way the heating is going on

This snow will melt and flood the park. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

So Christmas is nearly upon us...

So Christmas is nearly upon us...

It’s a time for celebration, cheer and festivities. It’s a time to reflect, appreciate our lives, give to those who are less fortunate and to forgive where possible.

Thank you for all of the likes, comments and messages this year with regards to my blog. I nearly shut it done earlier this year but your support keeps me going. I’ll see you the other side with more reviews, writing updates and guest posts plus my books of the year.

Now, here’s a call to arms – it’s time to spread some goodness and love…

This year hasn’t been the greatest year so I think we need to turn things round a week before the year ends. I’m not asking for a Disney style ending but that we take the time to appreciate the people in our lives, and maybe reach out to those who aren’t in our lives (and maybe they should). Love is more powerful and stronger than hate so lets finish the year with a bit of cheer.

It’s time to tell people that you love them and you care.

Take a second to think about what the world would be if that person didn’t exist or wasn’t in your life – if it brings tears to your eyes then you need to do something about it. I know we can show it with a present or two but sometimes a hug and telling someone you care is worth more. Tell that person(s) either in email, text, WhatsApp but it would be even better face to face. Face the fear, and tell that person you care. Don’t lose them. Do it before it’s too late. Don’t let the person(s) or animal walk out of your life without saying those words. Hugs, and being there for each other can go a long way. Hug your cat, squeeze your sister, give a kiss to the kids, smile to the neighbours.

What if the person you is the love of your life - who could walk away from that potential – a daft person that’s who – don’t be that person. Lets spread some cheer and love – lets not spend the last few days of 2015 hating each other or not appreciating the good things we have in life lets take this time to understand and acknowledge each other.

…and if that doesn’t work then buy the people you love a book!

And if you don't have anyone to love then there's the hope of falling in love with someone/book/film/pet/future plans/friends/family.

Have you noticed how many Christmas songs are actually quite sad but those cheeky sound engineers mix in jingle bells so we glaze over the lyrics. Here’s my favourite Christmas song, a cover of Wham’s Last Christmas by The XX. I love this song so much that I listen to it throughout the year.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Book Review: Not That Easy

Not That Easy
Radhika Sanghani
Published by Mills & Boons
Available in paperback and ebook

Looking for something to make you laugh then Radhika Sanghani's second novel, Not That Easy, is the book for you.

Ellie is a twenty-something living in a flatshare in London while interning at a London magazine who embarks on a laugh out loud adventure into the world of online dating. This is a warts and all journey - Ellie needs to get past men nose-bleeding while snogging, being bitten on the neck, and flashy bankers. Ellie is a naive character who at times you want to shake her shoulders but also to hug at the same time.

This is a book looking at the issues facing young women in love, sex, friendships, family and work. The push and pull of all of these in this comedy will keep the you entertained.

But this book also has a serious side too. The pressures of society on Ellie to live up to expectation make you want to shout at her. She cares too much about what she 'should' be doing as dictated by society rather that what she really wants. At times the situations that Ellie gets herself into will make you cringe.

The power of friendship keeps Ellie grounded although she stretches her friend's wits to snapping point but her friends stick by here through thick and thin. This is a great book on the power of having people around you who understand and care for you.

Radhika has created a fresh, engaging voice with Ellie. This is an updated Bridget Jones but this character needs to tackle the horrors and 'honesty' of social media as she sets out to find love. Not That Easy has the same refreshing honesty as Girls but set in London.

This is a fun and sassy read and it'll have you laugh your knickers off at Ellie's antics. You can buy Not That Easy from your favourite bookshop.


I was kindly sent a copy by Midas PR.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Book Review: Learning to Speak American

Learning to Speak American
By Colette Dartford
Published by Twenty7
Available in ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Colette Dartford's debut novel, Learning to Speak American, may on the surface seem like it could be a gloomy book as a couple struggle to deal with the death of their daughter but in fact this is a book about forgiving the past and the people around you so you can let go and move on.

While on a trip to California's wine region, which Colette describes in great detail and will make you want to buy a plane ticket to head there, Lola and Duncan Drummond stumble upon a derelict house in the need of repair. This house, in the Napa Valley could be the thing needed to regain happiness in their marriage.

A deep grief has swallowed them both after the accidental death of their daughter. They have grown apart burying their grief in silence and guilt. Their fragile relationship is on the brink but will this house be the thing to save their marriage? Colette draws the reader into the complicated life of the Drummond's with believable characters

The house gives back Lola a sense of purpose, and new friends who are willing to listen to her talk about her daughter but secrets and lies consume Duncan as his coping strategy of drinking and one night stands pull him further away from Lola. This is a book which has no 'goodies' and no 'badies' - every character very much reflects real life - complicated.

At the start of the novel, both characters are finding ways of burying themselves in order not to face reality. Both must accept the past, forgive each other and let go of the guilt and resent stopping them from moving on with their lives. Learning to Speak American is a book about hope and acceptance.

You can download Learning to Speak American or pre-order the paperback for the new year!


I was kindly sent a physical copy by the publisher.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review: Beautiful Trees

Beautiful Trees
By Nik Perring
Published by Roast Books
Available in paperback

Beautiful Trees, the second in Nik's 'Beautiful' series is another pleasure following on from Beautiful Words with its teeny-tiny fictions drawing you into a delightful world.

Alexander's journey through life and love continue from the first book as he moves on from Lucy to Lily. Their love is told through the different trees in their life ranging from Holly to Maple to Beech. Each tree holds a significance to the relationship as their love blossoms.

Nik draws on myth, unusual facts and fantasy to tell the story of these two lovers, taking the reader back and forth through their relationship timeline. Their memories of each other are living and breathing in the trees and in such a short space of time you will find yourself emotionally invested with these characters. I mentioned it in my mini review for November's reading but I'll mention it here too - you're going to need a tissue or two.

This is only a short book so make sure you have a cup of tea (or even something stronger like a hot blackcurrant!) and maybe a slab of cake and sit back and enjoy this book. This is a great book and would make an excellent stocking filler. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

The illustrations by Miranda Sofroniou are a delight too.

You can buy or order a copy from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy from the publisher.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Book Review: Blood Axe by Leigh Russell

Blood Axe
By Leigh Russell
Published by No Exit Press
Available in paperback and ebook

If you like your books filled with blood, bodies and an axe murderer running through the streets then this thriller is for you, and you won't be disappointed.

The streets of York are no longer safe. No, I'm not talking about Christmas shoppers or people stumbling back from football matches. There's a Viking obsessed axe murderer on the loose, leaving the police puzzled because the only thing left at the crime scene is the dead victim - no finger prints, no DNA, zilch evidence.

DCI Ian Peterson needs to pull out his finger and find the killer as the bodies are starting to mount up in the morgue but of his leads are dead ends. His career is in the balance if the killer isn't found soon. But working all hours means that he has to put his marriage on the back burner, leaving his wife alone, at home, in a city where they've moved for his promotion.

The chapters alternate between the killer, who wants to be known as 'The Warrior' and DCI Ian Peterson, which I found interesting as it added depth to the plot, and kept the tension building. This change of viewpoint gives the reader an insight from both sides of the story - both characters have an obsession and will do anything to find an answer. Peterson wants and needs to find the killer. The Warrior wants and needs to be the best fighter for the Viking gods.

Blood Axe is the third in the DI Ian Peterson series but you don't need to have read the previous two novels as this one can be read as a separate entity - trust me - I haven't read the other novels and I found it easy to know the characters without the background from the previous stories.

Some endings are obvious - maybe I'm cynical or I've read too many books - but Russell's ending was definitely a surprise. I'm not going to give anything away as I don't want to spoil it for you.

Russell builds the tension as well as the murder count, and gripped me from beginning to end. I should definitely read more crime thrillers in the future!

Blood Axe is brutal, bloody and gripping. You can buy Blood Axe from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy from the publisher.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

November's Reading

Shopaholic is not pictured
This blog has had a mini-make over. Nothing too serious just a new banner and also an option to subscribe via email so you can have my little posts land straight in your inbox. Don't forget you can subscribe via Amazon Kindle... there's no escaping me!

Right, lets get down to business before December is over and I'll need to blog about two month's worth of reading.

The books are posing next to my favourite cushion....

Shopaholic to the Rescue - Sophie Kinsella
This was like meeting back up with an old friend, where its awkward at the beginning because you both know you should have made the effort to stay in touch (aka read the rest of the series) but by the end you're chatting away with no cares in the world. You can read my review here.

All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews
This. Book. Is. Amazing! buy it and read it. This is about two sisters. One sister wants to die. The other sister wants her to live. Sucicide and complicated families may seem like a depressing read but it's not - there are lots of funny bits in this book too. Just brilliant. I could quote all day long from this book but I won't because you should definitely read it - or have I said that already?!

Blood Axe - Leigh Russell
An entertaining read of dead bodies, axe murderers, blood, blood, blood. I'll be writing a review of Blood Axe in the next week. Leigh also popped by and took part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

Beautiful Trees - Nik Perring
Nik's latest book follows on from last year's Beautiful Words. The story will pull at your heart strings so you might want to have a tissue or two next to you when you read this one. I'll be reviewing this in the next week or so.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Book Review: Shopaholic to the Rescue

By Sophie Kinsella
Published by Bantam Press
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming


Shopaholic fans assemble – there’s a new adventure!

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is a on a road trip across western America along with her best friends, her enemies and her family to find out why her father has mysterious disappeared. In a RV, Becky and her merry band of followers gatecrash a children’s party, head to a country fair where her daughter ends up riding a sheep and they arrive in Las Vegas with an Ocean’s Eleven type plan.

The last time I read a Shopaholic book, Becky was on the verge of marrying Luke but since then she has moved to Hollywood, had a baby, and tried to become a stylist. I don’t think you need to have read all of the books to catch up with Becky’s life, Kinsella makes sure there are hints dropped through out the story. So if you’re an occasional reader of the series then you’ll definitely pick up quite easier on what has been happening in Becky’s life.

Even though I haven’t all of the series there have been occasions where I have thought about the character especially when spending – at least I’m not that much in debt as Becky Bloomwood. Comparing real life debt to that of a fictional character isn’t the most smartest of ideas but trust me, it can make you feel better. Yet, in Shopaholic to the Rescue, Becky’s credit card is firmly shut away in her purse. She can’t bring herself to shop, shop, shop. In order to find her old self she must help those around her. There are bigger problems compared to her credit card bill, which are looming on the horizon.

This is a fun read full of characters who are larger than life, ready to cheer you up on a chilly autumn morning or make you laugh on a long commute. Beyond the petty squabbles, and window shopping, this is a book about friends and family sticking together through the good times and also working through the rough times. This is a book about giving friendships and marriages a second chance, and not letting go of the ones you love.

Shopaholic to the Rescue is available from your favourite bookshop.


I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Guest Post: Leigh Russell's Imaginary Bookshop

Hi Leigh, congratulations on the publication of your novel, Blood Axe! Thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
My imaginary bookshop would be called 'Through the Looking Glass' with a line underneath to explain that 'Books Take You to Wonderland.' The shop front would be mirrors peppered with
images of books so in the reflection everyone who looks at the shop appears to be holding a book.

Or I might call it Russell's Reading Room and have a shop full of comfortable sofas and armchairs
with footstools, and books everywhere, on the floor, on the shelves, on the tables, in a glorious
disarray so everyone has to browse looking for a book that catches their eye. We can find the
specific book we are looking for at the touch of a screen, so my imaginary bookshop would not be
arranged by genre or have books displayed in any sort of order.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
My imaginary bookshop would be located on every high street in every town and village in every
country in the world. People would be able to browse through books whenever they felt like it, and
stay as long as they wanted, reading. There would be no obligation to buy, as long as the books
were not damaged in any way. If that happened, the damaged book would be sent straight to my
imaginary bookmender for repairs.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar,
etc
.
A cocktail bar with appropriately literary drinks, serving whatever drink was appropriate for the
book you were reading: mint julip for The Great Gatsby, gin and beer for Dickens, Montepulciano
d'Abruzzo for Geraldine Steel, pina colada for Lucy Hall, and if there was no specific drink
associated with a book, there would be tea and scones or Champagne, or both - all free of course,
to encourage more people to read. We would have a fold away stage so my bookshop could
support all the arts. We would host occasional live performances of plays about literary figures, and
have regular live musicians playing appropriate songs like Paperback Writer, and we would display
art work whose subject matter was books and readers reading books.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
I've never visited a bookshop quite like the one described in my previous answers, so I think I've
already answered this, probably in far more detail than you wanted.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
There would be no sections. Customers would browse a completely random display of books,
because if you only read what you know you like, how do you know what else you might be
missing? Part of the joy of reading is to discover new worlds. So my bookshop would not put any
possible restraints on the kind of books people might stumble across.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display
table?

Mine.
Why?
Because I need to pay for all the free tea and scones and Champagne somehow.

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 would host an event where Shakespeare would write and produce a play. Everyone present
would be inspired by his creative genius and we would all be touched by it. I would make sure
every key person in the government attended, and afterwards the arts would receive some
sensible funding from the government, instead of having to be self-promoting in order to survive.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, Blood Axe and asks you to
give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?

I could threaten them with my axe (yes, I do have one - it's plastic and someone brought it along to
a Champagne tea my publisher hosted for Blood Axe). The honest answer is that I would suggest
they read the opening pages and decide whether the book appeals to them. The last thing I ever
want to do is persuade someone to buy my book if they are not going to enjoy it. That serves no
one. That said, I would certainly recommend my books to anyone who enjoys reading crime fiction.
Fortunately that genre is very popular with readers.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
If we are talking about launching Blood Axe, then it would have to be a very large cake, so it could
be sliced with an axe... cake covered in chocolate...


*
Links to all of Leigh's books, her Facebook page, twitter account, and blog can be found on Leigh's website http://leighrussell.co.uk

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Book Review: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine

By Alex Brunkhorst
Published by Mira
Available in paperback and ebook

Alex Brunkhorst’s debut novel, The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine, delves into the glamorous life of Bel Air and its residents. There are secrets simmering under the surface of glitter, parties, and expensive houses and these are about to be revealed…

Reporter Thomas Cleary has moved to LA to escape the drama of his old life in New York, recently disgraced at work, and with a broken heart, he has come out west for a quiet life. But an interview with the daughter of a recently deceased film director opens up a world of luxury and glamour, full of opportunities. He stubbles upon a girl, on his way to a glamorous party,. The mysterious Matilda, a recluse, locked away in her father’s mansion turns Thomas’s life upside down.

Secrets and lies hidden by privileged people reminded me of The Great Gatsby and Marisha Pessl’s Night Film. Tightly wrapped secrets linger on the sidelines, tempting Cleary to dig deeper and find out if his new friends are really who they say they are. These people, the complete opposite of Cleary ‘s modest background, manipulate their power to achieve what they want. This hold over other people intrigues Cleary, and sets him off into the investigation of a life time but he doesn’t count on the fact that he is falling in love with Matilda.

The mystery and intrigue in this novel echoes the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Brunkhorst, like Hitchcock, explores the theme of identity and how people create personas for the public as well as creating a private persona to also hid away the person who stares back at them from the mirror.

Brunkhorst reveals the truth slowly, but keeps the intrigue on each page to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Something is not right, and Cleary is determined to see beyond the sparkle and expensive gifts to find out what this close-knit community are hiding.

This noir novel is an absorbing read, which slowly unravels, revealing that these people are acting even once the cameras are switched off.

You can buy The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine from your favourite bookshop.



I was sent a copy by the publisher.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Reading Roundup: September & October

September’s reading is bundled up with October. Things are still chaotic...

There have been things to take my mind off the year’s events but mostly not good things – my sister has had four operations, been in and out of hospital three times.  We have decided to tie her down so she doesn’t float back to the hospital.

I have seen my fantastic friends from university, and they have been amazing this year. We might all live at different corners of the country but I know that they are there. We have all bases covered: marriage, babies, divorce.

I also saw Margaret Atwood speak at an event in London, and it was amazing. I always come away, fired up to carry on with my writing.

I have finished redrafting chapter 18 or have I already mentioned that? Anyway, I’m currently slogging away at chapter 19. I have also been blowing the cobwebs off a few stories, and submitting them to magazines. Nothing is going to get published if it stays on my hard drive. I’m waiting for those juicy rejections to come back and hit my inbox.

My sister’s cat has been keeping us on our toes, and his taken over the role of being the boss. He is currently curled up next to me, making sure I do my blog post. Every time I stop typing he pounces, so I need to keep my fingers moving – actually he could make quite a good writing tool – will eat your fingers if you stop writing the novel – I smell a business opportunity.

And obviously, I dwell on the things which have happened – why have I let myself be in this situation, why have I been treated like this, when will I stop missing…

ANYWAY, back to the purpose of this blog post…

Books read in September and October

The Heart goes Last – Margaret Atwood
This is a dystopia full of fun and humour in a post-credit crunch world where living in your car is normal. Our young couple volunteer for a social experiment – one month living in an ideal home, the next month in a jail – rotating at the end of the month from one to the other.  I treated myself to a ticket to see Margaret Atwood talk about her new novel, and she is always amazing when answering Q&As, and dong public readings. The cat also particularly liked this book as it came with a ribbon bookmark, which he has shredded.

I’ll be reviewing this great novel in the next week. The plot unravels slowly and reminded me of The Great Gatsby and Night Film.

Dying and Killing – Adrian Tomine
Most of my reading recommendations nowadays come from Twitter and blogs. This was one of them. I like graphic novels about real life people and their quirks, and this book delivers on this. High recommended, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more by this author.

This short story collection was another Twitter recommendation. These stories are well written and many of them reminded me of the characters from Girls (don’t let that put you off).  I would be interested in reading Lauren’s next book.

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This was my first Pratchett so I’m not sure if this is typical of his style. There were so many characters in this book, and thankfully there was a cast list at the beginning as I would have probably given up.

You can read my review here. Ayisha also stopped by and took part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

Adult Onset – Ann-Marie MacDonald
You can read my review of this great book here.

Fuck This Journal – Dale Shaw
This would make a great present for Christmas. You can read my review here.

 
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
This book explores the idea that we all have creativity inside of us but we must unlock the ‘magic’ from within by simply doing, and making. This isn’t all hocus-pocus. I really enjoyed this book, as Elizabeth Gilbert cuts through the bullshit surrounding creativity.



Adult Onset was my favourite read for September, while Big Magic was my favourite book for October. Right, back to thinking about November…

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Guest Post: Colette Dartford's Imaginary Bookshop


Today we have a guest post from Colette Dartford, debut author of Learning to Speak American. Her book is out now, and I'll be reading and reviewing my copy over the next few weeks but in the mean time you can read Colette's answers to the Imaginary Bookshop.


*

Hi Colette, congratulations on the publication of your novel, Learning to Speak American! Thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Words Between The Covers. I thought about abbreviating it to ‘Between The Covers’ but who knows what sort of customer that might attract.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Not in Bath, where I live, because we already have two excellent independent bookshops, a giant Waterstones and Blackwell at the university. My bookshop would be in St Helena, an idyllic little town in California’s Napa Valley whose only bookshop closed a few years ago. It is missed.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Well, it’s in the Napa Valley so obviously there would be wine. And coffee and cake. There would also be a discussion area where those who wanted to talk about what they were reading or get recommendations could chat with others. Oh, and dogs would be welcome.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
Free books. Everyone who buys a book would have the option of buying the same book for £1 and putting it on a ‘Free Book’ shelf. This way those who wanted a book but couldn’t afford it wouldn’t have to miss out. A bit like an honesty bar, but with books. The idea came to me the other day when I walked past a homeless girl huddled in a shop doorway with her dog and utterly engrossed in her brick-thick paperback. Small pleasures…

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Controversial I know, but my bookshop would be fiction only. There are a lot of beautiful non-fiction books out there but Words Between The Covers would be about stories and imagination. And it would have a designated section for debut authors (not that I’m biased) to give them a helping hand.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Prize winners past and present – excellence should be rewarded. There would be a ‘Recommended By You’ display table too.

Customers would be encouraged to nominate books they enjoyed for that table. And a table for books that aren’t selling well to give them a final chance before they go to get pulped.

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?
Difficult question, but I’m going to say Donna Tartt. The Secret History is one of my favourite books, she only produces a new novel every ten years, she’s private to the point of reclusiveness and in every photograph for the last thirty years she has looked exactly the same: glossy dark bob, black suit, white shirt. A style icon as well as a literary icon.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, Learning to Speak American and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
It delivers a message of hope, and we all need hope.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Carrot cake – I’m vegetarian.

*

Learning to Speak American is currently available as an ebook but will be published in the new year in paperback.

You can follow Colette Dartford on Twitter.

Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford is out now and is £3.99 on Amazon. Click here.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Book Review: Fuck This Journal

Fuck This Journal
By Dale Shaw
Published by Headline
Available in paperback and ebook



Looking for a funny book to buy your family members and friends this Christmas? Then this book is for you, and it’ll even make a great buy for your enemies.

Fuck This Journal takes the idea of using encouragement and positive energy to unleash your inner creative side and throws it out of the window. You’ll only need your bitterness to explore your ‘cre-hat-ive’ side. Any resentment and anger will definitely help you through some of these exercises to unlock your inner creative.

This is a fun book which pokes fun at the self-help industry, and I’m sure this is the type of book which will be passed round on Christmas day between the family, either laughing at the exercises or shaking their heads, saying ‘couldn’t Father Christmas buy you a more serious book like Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf?’

So add this book to your shelf and dip in each time you want to channel your broodiness into something constructive.

The Twitter account for this book has some great examples from the book, and is worth a follow if you use Twitter.

So throw away those colouring books, and ditch the self-help books because anger, bitterness and nastiness is what you need. Fuck This Journal is available from your favourite bookshop.


* I guess I should have ‘*’ the fucks but I thought we’re all grown ups here. I’m not into censoring…



I was sent a copy by Bookbridgr.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Book Review: Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

By Ann-Marie MacDonald
Published by Sceptre
Available in paperback and ebook

I immediately wanted to read Adult Onset as soon as I read Sara’s review, earlier on in the year. You should go and read the review too, and you’ll probably find yourself heading to your nearest bookshop. Luckily I was sent a copy for review, and instead of putting it on the to-be-read pile, I bent back the spine and started immediately – I wasn’t disappointed.

Adult Onset, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s third and semi-autobiographical novel, tells the story of Mary Rose during an intense week of looking after her two children while her wife, Hilary is away with work. Mary Rose has put her writing career to bring up their adopted son, and their daughter, carried by Hilary, and the cracks of being a stay-at-home mother are starting to show.

This is a novel about push and pull of motherhood and families, and the struggles Mary Rose faces as she consciously tries to avoid the mistakes she thinks her mother made while she was growing up. She struggles to maintain an exterior of calm and normality like she sees in the playground in the other mothers. These unsettling feelings about the life she is leading are knocking her off kilter. MacDonald peels away the layers of domestic life, revealing the pain but also the humour in everyday family life.

MacDonald explores the way the past informs the present. Mary Rose’s thoughts about the root cause of the bone cysts in her arm, from her childhood go round and round on a loop, with her fear of hurting her children and a deep anger threatening to ruin her life. She fears her family are hiding a secret even though they are so very open about her mother’s miscarriages and stillborn children. They even tell Mary Rose that the baby who was born and died before her was meant to be the first Mary Rose. This Mary Rose, the one with a family, is not the original one, and this haunts her.

This raw and powerful look into family life reminded me of Dept. of Speculation and the way the characters try to maintain a veneer of perfection to the outside world but the undercurrents of a troubled past are fracturing the present. Both books are an uneasy, unsettling read but they absorb the reader completely into the lives of the characters.

Flashbacks to her childhood, and to her Mother’s past show two characters who have the full of pressure of life on their shoulders, as well as a splintered relationship between mother and daughter.

Adult Onset is definitely one of my top reads for this year. You can buy Adult Onset from your nearest bookshop.


I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Natalie Goldberg Is A Babe


 I’m in a writing rut but then is it any surprise?

There’s only one thing to do when you need some comfort that you’ll write soon and that the rut isn’t permanent and the solution is to read Natalie Goldberg. I have raved about Writing Down the Boneson many occasions but this time I decided to buy a tatty second-hand copy of Wild Mind.

The first time I read Wild Mind was in the university library while I was studying for my Masters. There was a gap of four hours between two lectures, and instead of heading home (I live over 1.5 hours from uni), I would go to the library, find Wild Mind and read it, sat next to the window, occasionally glancing up to watch the traffic go slowly up Holloway Road.

There is something quite nourishing about Natalie Goldberg’s book on writing. Her zen-like approach to writing is so simple and effective. I only need to read a couple of pages before I’m grabbing my notebook. I have taken her advice of journaling. This is something I have always liked the idea but always found myself struggling but recently I am letting it all out on the page – none of it will ever be read but I have found it easier to write in either the second-person narrative or pretend I am writing to someone, and addressing this directly.

I’m looking forward to reading Thunder andLightning. I’m saving it to read after I have finished the latest Margaret Atwood.

“Writing is hard, but eventually if you are serious, you have to settle and be steady, even though your individual emotions change from day to day about it.”

Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

By Ayisha Malik
Published by twenty7
Available in ebook
Forthcoming in paperback

  
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Sofia Khan is in need of a husband…or at least that’s what her family think. They are desperate for her to get married, her boss is demanding she writes a book on Muslim dating and her boyfriend wants her to move in with his parents.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, Ayisha Malik’s debut novel is a funny and witty story of Sofia as she tries to find (and even lose) love, and deal with her demanding family.  Think of the family from East is East and you’ll know what I mean. Sofia’s personal life is chaotic – her sister is getting married, her father is trying to hid the fact that he’s still smoking, and her mother is obsessed with pleasing everyone. Mixed in with her publishing job, in which she must write a dating manual, and her complicated friends. Sofia must find her own path in life but she is brave enough to make the jump and escape society’s expectations?

Sofia is a flawed character but this makes her more likable to the reader. The chatty style makes Sofia feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, and I found the characters comforting. Sometimes you need some light relief from everyday life, and I can promise you that this book will give you this escape.

On many occasions this book reminded me of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Both books are similar in tone – chatty and friendly but structurally Sofia Khan is Not Obliged fits with modern life with Sofia’s story told through blog entries, texts and extracts from Sofia’s book in progress.

Malik explores the push and pull between modern life and traditional customs with Sofia’s battle to not find love. Yet, this book isn’t all light hearted fun. Serious issues are tackled with polygamous marriages, dating outside the religion, the way Muslims are perceived by non-Muslims. This fast paced, engaging novel will entertain and educate you.

If you’re looking for a book to cheer you up on these drab and drizzly autumn evenings then this is the book for you.




I was kindly sent a paperback version of this book.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Real Reason Why Writers Don’t Admit To Being A Writer


Quite a few writers don’t like to tell other people aka civilians, when asked their occupation, that they are a writer. It has nothing to do with how many novels you’ve had published or the fact you may prefer to be called ‘story creator’ or ‘word wrangler’ or that once the word ‘writer’ has left your lips then the magic will vanish. The real reason is that you end up getting in a conversation just like the one below, and there’s no escape.

I’m afraid this is a true story.

“So are you still writing?”

“I’m just redrafting-”

“I’m actually working on a novel, and it’s rather good if I say so myself.”

The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer takes another gulp of wine.

“My epic novel will span across different fantasy worlds and will be a game changer as there is nothing out there about the power of the female in fantasy fiction.”

I should probably point out that this is a male ‘writer’ – one of those arrogant ones who stand their chest out, and for some strange reason points out their chin to maybe make himself look more ‘literary’. This ‘writer’ is the sort of person who you want to put a pin in and watch them deflate.
The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer resists shakes his shoulders and saying ‘non-readers are not allowed to be fucking writers’ and just smiles politely and replies “sounds interesting.” She has a shed load of fantasy books with female protagonists in her head which have been published and turned into films so this ‘writer’ must be living in a bubble.

“Can I send it to you when I’m finished?”


“I need a wee.” The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer wanders off to a quiet corner to weep. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

My Books Are In Storage, Again

My books are in storage, again.

They seem to spend more days in boxes than on the bookshelf. This was not something I was planning on doing especially after last year’s ordeal of moving twice, and having to stay in a hotel while the builders finished the house.  I thought it would be a house where my desk would stay assembled for more than two years, and maybe the book collection would start containing some picture books. At the end of last year, I thought I knew where my life was heading, and who I was heading there with but it turns out this is not the case.  I have no words left to go into the details.

For the past six months, I have been heartbroken, angry and sad. Last week the keys were handed over to the new owners, and yet there was no final goodbye. I stood and waited but couldn’t wait any longer.

I need to remember that each time I'm upset and miss the past is that he cheated on me, he set up a dating profile to meet these women and has created an un-reality full of lies, he bullied me into removing our Valentines Day pictures from this year so he could pretend we've been split for over a year. I need to remember him laughing in August saying that what he said previously two weeks ago was wanting me back was a joke. Having to sell our house, our beautiful house. I must remember these and the cowardly actions.

Family and friends have been there, listening to me, handing over tissues, keeping me busy, making me laugh, giving me pep talks. They know who they are, and I want them all to know I appreciate all of the support and love they have thrown my way. Don’t worry this post isn’t going to become all self-helpy or start to fill up with metaphors about fog and broken hearts. I promise!

Funnily enough, knowing I had books to review has kept me blogging or I would have closed down this blog.

I have been trying to write but I don’t seem to be able to write endings to any of these stories. At least my novel needs redrafting and not writing! Redrafting I can do, and redrafting I have been doing although it is s-l-o-w but I am making progress.

Today I finished chapter eighteen, which is a relief, as this chapter had no shape when I read it a few months ago. I highly recommend reading your writing months (or even years) after the initial round of writing will definitely give you perspective.

Chapter 18 was all over the place – conversations with no location, characters appearing from no where, an ending which didn’t fit with the rest of the chapter. These have been fixed, and the chapter feels balanced.

I guess I need to open up the document for chapter 19 and see what state I left that…


The next blog post is a funny one so stay tuned…

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Book Review: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets
By Eva Rice
Published by Headline
Available in paperback and ebook

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is the book equivalent of eating sweets. Sometimes you need something sugary and full of innocence.

Set in the 1950s, Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love but life isn't going the way she wants. A chance encounter with Charlotte means Penelope's life will never be the same now she has a new stylish friend in her life.

This is a light-hearted, gentle read, making it the ideal book if you want fancy an afternoon curled on the sofa, snuggled inside a duvet.

Glitzy parties, grubby cafes, gossiping girls and boys with bikes. This book is full of period detail in 1950s London. The first generation of 'teenagers' have arrived - celebrity crushes, falling in love with every boy, dancing to records, and dreaming of living in another country. Penelope must find her way through the minefield of adolescence as well as finding a way to make her mother happy.

Around Penelope and her friends, are obsessed with being wined, dined and dancing to rock 'n' roll but the older generations are still recovering from World War 2. Penelope's mother is still in mourning years after her husband died in the war, and left behind their crumbling mansion with no income to help with the maintenance. Rice explores the push and pull of each generation and the way culture has infiltrated their lives. Obligations to past generations has a hold over Penelope and her family and they must work out if they want to break away, and form their own future.

The publisher, Headline has released a 10th anniversary edition which includes a short story on how Penelope's parents met as well as an introduction from the comedian, Miranda Hart. It would have been nice to have had a front cover overhaul as I'm sure with a jazzier cover this book would also appeal to readers who like the 'young adult' genre.

You can buy The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Guest Post: Colette McBeth's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we have Colette McBeth popping over to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A. Earlier
this year I reviewed her novel, The Life I Left Behind and it is a roller-coaster of a book. You can read my review here.

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Hi Colette, thank you for stopping by and taking part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A. Congratulations on the publication of The Life I Left Behind in paperback.

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Lady McBeth’s Books by the Sea

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?

Overlooking the sea in a place where it was hot during the day and chilly at night so I could light a log fire.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
The books would choose the reader, a bit like the wands choosing the characters in Harry Potter, so each customer would find their perfect book match every time.

What sections would you have in your bookshop?
One for psychological thrillers obviously and next to each thriller, a lighter, funnier, book to compliment it. I’m a firm believer in lightness and shade!

And what sections would you ditch?

Any celebrity biographies by people younger than twenty five. I know that’s very prescriptive but it’s my bookstore and I feel it’s my duty to save readers from them.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Instead of a display table with cook books, I’d have the chefs make their favourite dishes for my customers to taste because, a) we’d know if the recipes actually worked before we forked out for the books, and b) no one would have to leave to eat lunch.

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?
Roald Dahl would run a children’s event every week and every child who came along would have to invent a new, rude sounding word like snozzcumber. There aren’t enough of these words in circulation.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, The Life I Left Behind, and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?

If you buy the book I’ll let you have a slice of my cake (see below)

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Lemon meringue pie. It makes the world taste better.

You can buy The Life I Left Behind from your favourite bookshop.




Former BBC correspondent Colette McBeth is the author of Precious Thing, and this year’s The Life I Left Behind, as well as a member of Killer Women.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Reading in August

Books read in August
August saw me actually read an ebook - something which I haven't done in a while but I saw several quotes of the book on Twitter, and I wanted to read it straight away. I also read three 'normal' books too. This month all four books were written by women, and about women trying to find a place in society and breaking away from society's expectations.

Lillian on Life was my book of the month. A woman in her late fifties looks back at her life, and the way it hasn't turned out the way she thought it would when she was younger. You can read my review here. Alison also took part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A.

I saw Emma Jane Unsworth read one of her short stories at a reading recently (Faber Social - you should go - trust me!), and that same night I popped into a bookshop and picked up Animals. I loved the energy and voice of this book. It's Girls crossed with Withnail and I.

Live Alone and Like It was my token ebook, and is a reissue from the 30s - this is full of sassy advice for women in the 1930s on being independent in the world, and some of that advice can still be applied in 2015.

Maybe the start of my art collection...
The Secret Art of Keeping Secrets is one of those books that I meant to read but haven't got around to it - I think its because the front cover doesn't appeal to me. I do remember stacking it high when I used to be a bookseller. Eva Rice's novel has been published for over ten years and has been reissued to celebrate! This is about growing up in 1950s London - the world is changing and the teenagers are stuck between the old and new. I will be reviewing this soon.

If you're in North London then you must go and see the House of Illustration's exhibit on Ladybird books. I went at the end of August with a friend, and it wasn't until we saw some of the front covers that we started to remember them from childhood. I picked up this great print, which I'm looking forward to hanging on my wall!


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ayisha Malik's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we have a new Imaginary Bookshop participant. Ayisha Malik has kindly agreed to take part in the Q&A. Today is also the publication of her debut novel, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is the first title in a brand new imprint from Bonnier, called Twenty7, which only publishes work by debut novelist, first in ebook and later in paperback

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Hi Ayisha, congratulations on the publication of your novel, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged! Thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
The Lazy Gal’s Library. (So lazy, she can’t even be bothered to spell ‘girl’ correctly.)

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
In some kind of nook in London, where you have to go through narrow side-streets and walk down a flight of stairs before you enter this grand, be-cushioned place.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
In true essence of the bookshop, perhaps a place to nap: some comfy sofas that double-up as beds with a nice warm fleece. Oh, and a fireplace.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
It’d be open twenty-four hours a day for those night owls. Seeing as there will be a napping area, they can read and then switch off their bedside lamp for a snooze before they start their reading day all over again.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I’m not sure which I’d ditch (maybe self-help) but I’d have a special section for, unsurprisingly, epistolary and diary form novels. A lot of people don’t like these forms, but I think they can be the most exciting type of narration. There’s a raw honesty in letters and diaries that perhaps you can’t quite attain in a normal narrative structure. If done well it’s the spilling of emotion, carefully balanced with the unravelling of events through the eyes of the narrator that’s deeply personal and engaging.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
All my favourites, of course. But if we’re being specific then a table full of clever satires and comedies: the type that make you laugh out loud and maybe even cry.

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?
Only being able to choose one is a bit harsh. I’m going through a Nora Ephron stage though so it’d have to be her. I’d want her to divulge to writers how to make a reader laugh, while making strong and poignant social, as well as deeply human, observations. Then I’d make her stay and churn out hundreds of more books so that we’d never run out of Nora Ephron.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I don’t think I’m a very good self-publicist so I’d probably direct them towards another book I love and give them my book for free. This way they can’t come back and trash me for it if they don’t like it! And if they do like it then I’ll always be that lovely author who gave her book away.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Nutella cake. Obviously.

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Ayisha Malik is a British Muslim, lifelong Londoner, and lover of books. She read English Literature at Kingston University and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing (though told most of her family it was an MA in English Literature – Creative Writing is not a subject, after all.) She has spent various spells teaching, photocopying, volunteering and being a publicist. Now, when she isn’t searching for a jar of Nutella in her cupboards, she divides her time between being managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and writing. Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is Ayisha’s debut novel.


Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik is published by Twenty7 in ebook on 3rd September (£4.99) and paperback in January (£7.99)

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Book Review: Lillian on Life

By Alison Jean Lester
Published by John Murray
Available in paperback and ebook

Lillian on Life, Alison Jean Lester’s debut novel is fantastic and you should read it.

If you mixed together Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Mad Men then you would end up with Lillian – witty, sharp and willing to bare herself to the world . Life has not turned out as she has expected or more importantly what society expects – no marriage, no children but Lillian, 57, has had a career spanning from New York, London, Paris and Munich plus she is never short of boyfriends.

Lillian takes a breather from the married man in her bed, and her demanding cat, to reflect back on her life. The short chapters, are split into rich and vibrant topics as she examines the life she has had. These chapters, are almost like essays and could stand alone if you wanted to dip in and out of the novel at random. I told myself that I would read one more chapter but Lillian on Life is too addictive. Lillian casts herself away from the conservative constraints of her upbringing and in to a world full of changes – from driving sports cars around France, to dinner parties in Munich.

Her glamorous life, in post-war America and Europe shows how women have gained more choices in their lives, but are still struggling to break away from society’s expectations. Lester has created an unforgettable character who is full of elegant and edgy quips, fierce, independent, strong-willed and an inspiration. I adored this book, and I really think everybody should read it.

There is one downfall – this is the author’s debut novel – I’m hoping I don’t have to wait too long for another book.

You can buy Lillian on Life from your favourite bookshop.

You can read Alison's response to the Imaginary Bookshop here.

I was sent a copy via bookbridgr.