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.

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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...


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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.


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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.

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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.