Monday, 7 August 2017

Frances Gapper's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Writer's Little Helper welcomes Frances Gapper to the Imaginary Bookshop to celebrate her new short story collection, In the Wild Wood.

In the Wild Wood has had fantastic reviews from Helen Oyeyemi and Paul Magrs. Some of the biggest names from your bookshelves. Plus look at this fantastic book cover!

Over to Frances...

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
The Dream Palace

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
In a beautiful and surprisingly accessible part of the UK that hasn’t yet been discovered. The bookshop would have sea views from its many bay windows (with window seats), nearby woodland walks and a lovely river also within easy walking distance.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.

It would have lots of very comfortable sofas and other lounging-around types of furniture. Also fountains, verandas, covered walkways.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
My bookshop would be very different indeed from all the other ones. The emphasis would be on relaxation. Women over 60 would be invited to stay over free of charge for as long as they liked in private book-lined bedrooms with large bathrooms and writing tables.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Plenty of fiction, poetry, biography and nature writing, plus a lot of odd and unusual books that don’t really fit into any category. I’d probably ditch anything too technical, apart from gardening books with a strongly autobiographical bent.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
On the display table I’d put old editions in great condition and very reasonably priced, eg Pan paperbacks from the 60s, vintage Penguins and leather-covered classics. Well bound and printed on good paper. The sort of thing I look out for myself in second-hand book shops.

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?

Emily Dickinson. She would read aloud selected poems, her personal favourites plus a few new ones we’ve never heard before, and some of her letters to friends including the expurgated bits. She’d then answer questions from the audience in her inimitable fashion.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
My novel? I’d say, did you know you can get this for £0.01 plus postage on Amazon Marketplace? As for my book of short stories, if it had gone missing I’d suggest they order a copy direct from the publisher Cultured Llama. They could look on the CL website to see what Helen Oyeyemi and Paul Magrs say about my book and view the cover picture, Night Tree by Jane Eccles. If that doesn’t persuade them to buy it, nothing will.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I never thought I’d see myself saying this, but cake without any nuts or seeds, so there’d be no nasty surprises for diverticulitis-prone intestines. Nb I love nuts and seeds – or used to.

*

You can either buy In the Wild Wood directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

You can visit Frances's website here http://www.francesgapper.co.uk/

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Book Review: Amber Green Takes Manhattan

Amber Green Takes Manhattan
By Rosie Nixon
Published by HQ
Available in paperback, ebook and audio

Looking for a book to take your mind off the world's problems?

Looking for something glamorous and sparkly?

Looking for something to make you laugh and cringe?

Yes to all of the above?

Then I have the book for you....

Rosie Nixon's second book in the Amber Green series, Amber Green Takes Manhattan, is a novel full of laughter, fashion, hissy fits and ambition. If you like Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones or even Ugly Betty then you will love this book.

Amber Green moves to New York with her boyfriend, Rob, where he will be filming a documentary about lingerie models. Amber doesn't want to be stuck all day in their teeny tiny flat and wants to make her own stamp on New York. Fashion is in her blood and she's determined that everyone in fashion will know about her sooner rather than later.

High profile styling by Amber for celebrities, mixing with controversial fashion designers, an Instagram account with thousands of followers and before Amber knows it she's becoming the talk of the town but maybe not for the reasons she was hoping for. Her new life is hanging in the balance after alienating both her best friend and her boyfriend. She must stitch back together her life, her career and her reputation.

This is a fast pace novel as the reader rushes with Amber through the streets of New York as she battles against unruly toddler photo shoots, finds herself involved with a designer handbag scam, having to smile at celebrities who only want to wear their undies on the red carpet and partying all night before job interviews.

If you're looking for a feel good novel full of glamour, adventure, ambition, friendship and love all serving in New York then this is the book for you. Amber Green Takes Manhattan is a fun read, and definitely a book to retreat to after a long hard day. You can buy Amber Green Takes Manhattan from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Chuck Caruso's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Chuck Caruso has popped over to Writer's Little Helper to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

Chuck Caruso's debut thriller, The Lawn Job, is a dark-comedy thriller about a femme fatal, Sheila Pasarelli, who is plotting to take revenge on her adulterous husband with the help of their gardener and ex-con man Craig Collins.

*


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
My imaginary bookshop would be called Café Noir and it would specialize in crime, horror, and other dark writing. Decorated with Persian rugs and heavy draperies, my shop would also include a coffee bar and a salon area with padded chairs and push sofas.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
My bookshop would be located in downtown Seattle, Washington. Set in the gritty urban core and overshadowed by the heavy clouds and constant rain, my bookshop would be a dark little haven for readers who love dark writing.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Yes, in addition to a full coffee bar with espresso machines and delicious pastries, my bookshop would feature a small stage for author events, dramatic readings, and acoustic music events.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?

The thing that would make my bookshop different from others is that it would become a focus of the local community of mystery readers and crime writers by hosting writers’ groups, book clubs, and weekly salons to discuss important topics and issues.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Because the bookshop would be entirely oriented around dark fiction, it could feature many of the usual sections like mystery, science fiction, biography, philosophy, etc., but patrons would know every section is stocked with dark materials.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Our display table would feature staff favourites, books by members of our writing groups, and things currently being read by our book clubs and discussion groups.

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?
If we could run only one author event, we would have a reading by Edgar Allan Poe who would read one of his macabre tales and answer questions about our enduring fascination with mystery and horror.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
Customers will want to read my novel, The Lawn Job firstly for the amazing thrill ride. It’s a fast-paced crime story with engaging characters and lots of plot twists. A friend told me my book should come with a beach towel and a six-pack. That said, one of my early readers described the novel as having layers like an onion. I like that it’s an exciting read but also a novel that lingers in the mind and provokes readers to reflect more deeply on my characters and their motivations. Those are aspects that I appreciate in the novels I read, so I’m pleased to offer that to my own readers.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I would offer the richest and darkest espresso chocolate cake I could find. Slices would be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to balance out the darkness with a lighter flavor. You always have to a little light to make the shadows deeper.




*


The Lawn Job by Chuck Caruso is out now (£9.99, Cloud Lodge Books)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Book Review: The Other Us

The Other Us
By Fiona Harper
Published by HQ
Available in paperback

If you could turn back time would you choose a different life?

This question nags away at Maggie, the protagonist in Fiona Harper's latest novel, The Other Us. She comes to resent her absent husband and her empty home after her daughter has gone travelling. Her mind starts to wander to the guy who could have been the love of her life - Jude. If only...

Maggie wakes up to find herself back at university - a crossroads between two men - Dan and Jude. She has a chance for a different life. At first she falls head over heels with Jude but then she slowly realises that the deeper she falls into this life the further away she is from her original life.

I know what you're thinking - been here before, read this type of novel before - but you would be wrong. This isn't just any type of rom-com. This is a rom com with a time travel twist. This is a book about second chances and maybe realising that second chances might not offer the same level happiness as you originally had.

The Other Us shows the reader that we must appreciate what life offers, that we are the only ones who can make ourselves happy before another person can make us happy. Harper has written an uplifting book - something we all need in this unpredictable world.

This is an absorbing story and I found myself unable to put down the book. This is a great comfort read especially for a lazy day when you want to lounge around reading either on a beach, on the sofa or in the bath.

If you loved the film About Time and Sliding Doors or enjoyed reading David Nicholls's One Day then you will love this book. The Other Us is available from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Linkage

Here are a few of my favourite things on the internet at the moment...

Dr Seuss offers advice on relaxing with a book over here.

And here's David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas offering advice on submitting work and then getting started on the next story. Read the quote here.

Nintendo offering the best life advice over here.

Great advice from the late Nora Ephron including the only way to keep learning is to keep doing something new which can also be applied to writing. You can read more here.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

June's Reading Shenanigans

Boom... five books read in June.

Not that reading is a competition because honestly, five books isn't anything compared to the people who I follow on Goodreads who read ten, twenty each month. Where do they find the time? Have they ditched the sacred religion of telly watching in the evenings to sit in the bath constantly reading while being fed chunks of chocolate aka reached reading heaven?!

This month was a fantastic reading month as most of the books held my attention and I found I couldn't put them down and not because they were glued to my hands.



Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
Eleanor lives a simple life - learning to survive rather than live. She has a set routine and nothing can step in her way. Yet one simple act of kindness by Eleanor sets off a chain of events which lead her away from the confines of her simple life into finding new friends, confronting her past and realising there's more to life than her job and then coming home to a bottle of vodka. This is an absorbing read and I really found myself rooting for Eleanor. This is one of those addictive books - you have been warned!

Conversations with Friends - Sally Rooney
Fans of Fleabag and Girls will love this book. Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa ask each other endless questions as their relationships develop as they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and the mundane world around them. Frances starts an affair with Melissa's husband, Nick and all the the dynamics of their friendships start to shift. This is a marmite book - either people will love the characters and they will enjoy the way the book can be read as a feminist romance or people will be annoyed because the characters are overindulged. I really enjoyed the dialogue, the exploration into the female consciousness and the way friendships evolve between women.

The Other Us - Fiona Harper
If you loved the film About Time and Sliding Doors or enjoyed reading David Nicholls's One Day then you will love this book. Maggie finds herself at forty, suffering from an empty nest after her daughter has left to go travelling and her husband is being distant. She starts thinking about a different life she could have possibly taken while at university... and her wish comes true as she is taken back in time and to different life. This book captures one of the questions which pulls on many minds - 'what if...' This is an absorbing story and I found myself unable to put down the book.

An Account Of The Decline Of The Great Auk, According To One Who Saw It - Jessie Greengrass
The short story collection with the longest title goes to this book! Jessie Greengrass's short story collection contain 12 stories ranging from historical, with a sailor describing the tragic extinction of the Auk to the future where a guard watches over a strange presence but all explore loneliness and solitude. The stories are elegant and insightful. I'm looking forward to reading more from Jessie Greengrass.

Bad Choices - Ali Almossawi
Sometimes it's refreshing to read a bit of non-fiction. This book looks at how algorithms can be applied to everyday situations and also how algorithms are not just for the techies. Some of the theories behind this book and the way it looks at being more logic can be complicated but there are handy pictures and graphs along with a chatty style of writing which makes this book really interesting because on the surface this is a dry subject and could bore you if it was written in an academic style.

What did you read in June?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Book Review: The Faithful

The Faithful
By Juliet West
Published by Mantle
Available in hardback

Juliet West's second novel, The Faithful, is a coming of age story in England, a country on the brink of World War II. Communities are divided, generations have drifted apart. Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts are causing trouble on the streets. This is a fascinating story about families and friendships formed and also broken based on each other's beliefs.

Hazel, sixteen, lives on the Sussex coast, and her summer is dragging. She feels alienated from her family, her friends have gone for the summer and she feels isolated from the outside world. She is bored with life and the routines she has fallen into.

Her life changes when the Blackshirts, a far-right political group arrive for the summer. Hazel can see people helping each other, a community with the same values, a sense of belonging - everything she has been craving. She befriends Lucia, an upper class girl who is devoted to the cause and also Tom, a working class boy who is cynical to the Blackshirt's principles. Hazel's life becomes entangled with both her friends, leading her away from a life she was meant to have - get married and have children.

This is a novel about love and deception as Hazel runs away to London with a life changing secret. She tries to escape society's expectations for a girl her age. Her life steers Hazel away from society's acceptable behaviour.  West shows the reader how dangerous extreme political groups can be - they way they promise a sense of belonging, safety and security, manipulating their members with extreme views.

The Faithful is a interesting read not just to see a young girl battle against society's expectations but for the social history during this period. West combines the personal and political into a great novel where the reader can draw parallels with today's' society. You can buy The Faithful from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

May's Reading Adventures


There wasn't much time for reading in May but I squeezed in three books... don't worry I've started to read in the park at lunchtime so I'm hoping to read more than 3 books this month.

Most of my time was spent rewriting chapter 37 not once but twice but I'm definitely happier and I've moved onto the next chapter...only two left and then this draft will be done. I've started to research agents and creating a synopsis...maybe after 4 years it'll be time to send this novel out into the wild.


So here are the books I read in May:

The Faithful - Juliet West
England is moving slowly towards war. Oswald Mosley's blackshirts are causing trouble on the streets. Hazel, a 16 year old girl is pulled into the clutches of this organisation one summer. Falling in love, forming new friendships and broken families push Hazel's life into an unexpected journey. This is a novel about loyalty, loss and guilt. I really enjoyed this novel, and you can read my review soon.

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout
I'm one of those people who has only just jumped on the Elizabeth Strout bandwagon after reading My Name is Lucy Barton and Olive Kitteridge last year. Anything is Possible is a spin off of last year's My Name is Lucy Barton and tells the story of the inhabitants of rural Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton. Each chapter tells the story of a person who either directly knows Lucy or knows of her. The stories are rich, complex, and beautifully written. Looking forward to reading more Elizabeth Strout.

The Storyteller - Kate Armstrong
Kate Armstrong's novel, The Storyteller, is a story of coming of age, depression, isolation and relationships. You can read my review here.

So what did you read in May?

Monday, 5 June 2017

Book Review: The Storyteller by Kate Armstrong

The Storyteller
By Kate Armstrong
Published by Holland House

Kate Armstrong's novel, The Storyteller, is a story of coming of age, depression, isolation and relationships.

In a psychiatric ward, Iris an elderly writer, insists on writing Rachel's biography, a young girl, recently admitted to the ward. Rachel can not resist this tempting offer - to be fictionalised, her life captured.

Rachel has lost her sense of self after being discharged from the hospital and finds herself drifting from one experience to another, isolated from society, unable to cling to reality or relationships. Armstrong captures the feelings of being lost, emptiness and fear of mental health, showing Rachel directionless with no support. The writing style pulls the reader into Rachel's emotional state - the world around the characters and the reader is claustrophobic.

Rachel is disconnected from society and herself. She wanders through her life detached, observing other people's behaviour, trying hard to relate within the romantic and friendship relationships she has but finds herself drifting away. She looks for physical relationships, and uses these to anchor herself with reality.

The reader is always left wondering if this reality of Rachel is the one that she is actually living. The story is being told by Iris so the reader is left wondering, much like Rachel wonders, if we are in the correct reality. Armstrong builds up the claustrophobia with each narrative - Rachel's story is layered with Iris's version of rachel's story and then Iris own story is plastered across the top.

This is an intense coming of age story with sharp observations around mental health issues. If you're looking for something a bit different this summer then pick up The Storyteller as you won't be disappointed. You can order The Storyteller from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Book Review: The Other Half of Happiness

The Other Half of Happiness
By Ayisha Malik
Published by Zaffre
Available in paperback and ebook

Sofia Khan is back, and she's ready to fight for happiness no matter the cost. Eloping isn't all it's cracked up to be once her mother finds out. A 'real' wedding must be arranged... but this wedding is going to need a groom and Connell has gone into meltdown.

Ayisha Malik's second novel follows on with Sofia's adventures through life with funny moments as she battles with her Muslim family's traditional values and the way she wants to live her life. Last time, in Sofia Khan is not Obliged, Sofia fell in love with her next door neighbour, Conall who definitely did not meet her family's expectations - Irish and white not a good Muslim man that they were hoping for!

In The Other Half of Happiness Sofia has eloped with Conall and now they live Karachi while he makes a documentary but something is niggling away at Sofia - her happy ending just doesn't seem right. She's missing her family, her friends and London and Conall is distant, fully absorbed with his work leaving her in their shared house on her own. There are secrets bubbling on the surface - pride and principles battle, forcing Sofia and her love for Conall to the brink.

Secrets, deception and lies wreak havoc with Sofia's life. Coming back to London not only means dealing with her family but it means trying to find a place to fit within her family and social circle now that she's a married woman. Not only does she need to still deal with her family's high and demanding expectations but she needs to take back control of her own life, career and happiness. Ayisha has written a romantic comedy with a feisty modern narrator with many touching moments and laugh out loud segments. Sofia is a honest, down to earth character and everyone can relate to her naive wisdom.

Funny and smart, this book will have you wanting to hug Sofia as she soon realises that there might not be such a thing as a 'happy ending'. I'm really hoping for a third installment because I feel like Sofia's story isn't complete.

The Other Half of Happiness is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by the publisher.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

April's Book Adventures

Talk about let the side down in April - I only managed to read three books but one of those was a doorstopper of a book so that counts as two - can we can agree on that so I can feel better about only reading three.

Well... I have a really great excuse! I've been distracted with painting my kitchen. I normally stick to neutral colours but this time I went for a eggshell blue and I don't want to blow my own trumpet too much but the kitchen feels fresher. At the moment I don't want to rip out the cupboards so I've cleaned them down and the kitchen doesn't look as dull as it used too. I did rip a hole in the lino so I need to find some time to replace it or even investigate what's underneath.

I did finish redrafting one of my chapters, and now I only have three left! Three! But this current one is a complete mess and if I'm honest, I need to start from scratch. So the end is in sight but it's complicated...

Right, so what three books did I read? Some great ones! Oh, you want more details... well, here you go!



Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch
This is the second installment of the Rivers of London series. DC Grant is still investigating strange occurrences in London's back streets. He finds himself tangled up with mystical creatures and going head to head with evil. This is a fun novel, and Ben Aaronovitch really is the next Neil Gaiman.

The Other Half of Happiness - Ayisha Malik
This is a hilarious book as Sofia Khan continues her journey for happiness. In the previous book Sofia fell in love with the guy next door much to the disappointment of her Muslim family. Here, we see her battle for a happy ever after. Sofia is the Muslim version of Bridget Jones. I'm hoping for a third installment! A fuller review will be on my blog soon.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair - Joel Dicker
Sometimes you want a long, long read which pulls you into a complex story, and this book delivers this. This thriller follows Marcus as he tries to prove his old professor is innocent of murder as well struggle with writer's block and the demands of fame. There are so many twists and turns in this story, and the writing is sharp and addictive. I really liked the way writing is compared to boxing and it wasn't something I considered before (I thought boxing was punch, punch, punch and then the opponent falls over - don't roll your eyes - I know differently now - we all have wrong impressions about professions - how many of us think writers just write, write, write and then get published).

"Writing a book is like loving someone. It can be very painful."

"You should prepare for you writing as you prepare for a boxing match... In the days leading up to the fight, you should be training at only seventy per cent so the rage that explodes on the day of the match has been allowed to slowly simmer and rise within you."

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Book Review: Behind the Mask is Nothing

Behind the Mask is Nothing
By Judy Birkbeck
Published by Holland House
Available in paperback and ebook

Judy Birkbeck's debut novel explores the potency and allure of cults which on the surface appear to be friendly groups, offering to enrich lives. Behind the Mask is Nothing is full of tightly wrapped tension where the reader can see the characters getting deeper and deeper into trouble but are helpless.

Stef is in crisis. Her teaching job is become more about paperwork and people pleasing rather than teaching children and she also suspects her husband is having an affair. Their marriage is drifting apart, having arguments over the slightest things and she is finding explicit messages on his phone from an admirer but he keeps denying the affair.

Stef is drawn into a community on a remote Exmoor estate run by the couple's counsellor with promises of fixing Stef's marriage. Here is a space where she can forget her job, the pressure to be a mother and wife, and learn to find inner peace with her troubles of that's what she thinks this community is about...

Birkbeck explores the power of manipulative communities and how they coax vulnerable people and abuse the authority, slowly controlling every aspect of their members lives. Stef's search for meaning and faith draws her more into this cult and its strange practices. I enjoyed the way that Birkbeck explores the effects of Stef's behaviour on her family, and they way they are pushed away and how the family falls apart as the cult's manipulation pushes it way through the tiny cracks in this family dynamic. Stef's life is consumed by the cult and her family are helpless on the sidelines.

A parallel story of Stef's grandmother weaves through Stef's story. She is writing her memoir about her time in Berlin when she was in the Hitler Youth group. Guilt and nostalgia make her more concerned for Stef. She can see the way the group are twisting reality and making Stef more detached yet she can also relate to the fact that Stef has found acceptance and faith.

This novel is full of paranoia, mistrust and warped realities. At times the reader is left not knowing which is reality is the truth and which one has been manipulated by the cult to draw Stef further into their clutches. Behind the Mask is Nothing is a novel that will keep twisting the tension until the end.

Behind the Mask is Nothing will be available for order from the 17th May.


I was sent a copy by the publisher.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Julia Crouch's Imaginary Bookshop


Today we welcome Julia Crouch to the Writer's Little Helper sofa to talk about her fantasy bookshop.

I would definitely visit Julia's bookshop especially as it combines books with a cinema - I don't think I would ever leave!

Her Husband's Lover is now out and available in paperback in June and ebook right now!

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Julia's Book Barn

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
It would be a destination bookshop in a beautifully converted barn, a little outside a town like Cambridge, where there are loads of readers. As well as parking places a-plenty, There would be a cycle path to get there, and a shuttle bus that runs on chip oil, and you'd get a discount for using your own steam or public transport. People would go and spend the whole day and part of the evening there.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Yes - a stage, a cinema (both for events and themed, book related shows), a cocktail bar, a cafe, a children's book adventure area, couches to lie down and read on. There may even be an outdoor pool with sunbeds, but you'd have to buy the book before you went out there, because you might get it wet. A shop with bookish gifts and extensive stationery section, an antiquarian section – although all the books must be beautiful. A charity shop. A cross country running trail to work off all that lying around reading, with showers and a changing area. There would also be work areas for writers, who could come and spend all day there without feeling that they have to buy endless coffees to earn their place. There would be no wi-fi, except in a very limited area, like smoking areas used to be in airports.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
It would be entirely run on renewable energy. It would be a place to spend a day.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I would have all the sections that there are in, say, Waterstones. But the labelling would come from a left-wing/feminist point of view. So Women's Studies would be just 'Studies'. History and Politics and philosophy would be divided into progressive and reactionary. As would literature. Gosh. Am I sounding a bit Orwellian? This might need further thought...

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I would judge purely on the aesthetics of the covers. Each week it would change – silhouetted man covers one week, predominantly yellow covers the next. Women looking back over shoulder, then shattered glass motifs.

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?
The Brontes: sisters or rivals? Charlotte, Emily and Anne battle it out in a flash fiction stand off. YOU get to decide who is the greatest of them all.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
Her Husband's Lover is crossover literary/psychological fiction: page-turning, vividly written and with enough twists to make you question every assumption you have ever made. It has recently featured on our 'two women silhouetted against a blue background' display.

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

A literary cake - Alice B Toklas's pot brownies. That should get the party started.
Only for those arriving on public transport or under their own steam.

*

Please visit Julia's website for more information about her books and you can also find her on Twitter.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things

The Keeper of Lost Things
By Ruth Hogan
Published by Two Roads
Available in hardback & ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Not only does Ruth Hogan's debut novel, The Keeper of Lost Things have a beautiful cover but it is also a charming, gentle story, perfect for bank holiday weekends especially when you're belly is full of chocolate and all you can do is pull over a blanket and curl up with a book.

Anthony Peardew, an elderly gentleman, full of guilt about losing his fiancee on their wedding day several decades before, has spent most of this life collecting lost objects while out for walks, making up for a promise he feels like he broke. Hair ties, trinkets, even a biscuit tin containing human ashes, have all been gathered up and reside in his study. There they wait for their owners to claim them. Knowing he is about to die, he leaves behind his home and his collection to his assistant, Laura. She must fulfill his legacy and return as many of the treasures as possible.

Hogan has created a book full of warm and funny characters but she will also try to squeeze a tear from you with some of the heartbreaking stories told from the lost objects and our characters' past. Missed opportunities, tragedies, the curse of growing old or even growing apart. Actually, I'm selling this book in the wrong way because even though there are heart-breaking episodes this is a book with heart and will warm you from the inside. Unlikely friendships are formed, heavy sadness from divorce starts to melt away and love starts to blossom.

The Keeper of Lost Things explores the way people hold onto promises (maybe even for a lifetime) and the power of these promises when both made or even broken. Guilt runs through this novel and as the reader we get to see these characters confront these feelings of fear and move towards a happier, more balanced life. Hogan shows the reader how inanimate objects can have a hold over people and be full of memories and emotions - Laura not only has to honour Anthony's legacy but she must find these people, knowing that some people may not want to be reunited with their treasures.

Fans of The Man Called Ove will enjoy this book as they are very similar in the way neighbours can come together to form a community and help each other in this chaotic world. Both books show the healing power of friendships when letting go of the past.

I bet you won't be able to walk past a lost object you see on the street in the same way as you used to after reading this book. You can buy The Keeper of Lost Things from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy to review via Bookbridgr.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Helene Fermont's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Helene Fermont pops by to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop with some fantastic answers. Her novel, We Never Said Goodbye is now available to buy from your favourite bookshop.

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Readers Paradise.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
In one of the beautiful parks in my native city Malmö where people exercise, socialise and relax with a good book.

Would your bookshop have any special features?

Absolutely. It would have a reader’s corner where authors would be invited to read an extract from their books and designated cosy café. Hygge life style, Fika/coffee break and books are the perfect combination!

What would make your bookshop different from all the other ones?
Staff would have an intricate knowledge of all genres, and both new and old titles in Sweden and abroad.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?

I would feature a mixture of current and old books and introduce new authors work regularly and ditch or minimise celebrity and ghost written books.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table and why?
I would ensure a variety of authors books are on display. Not just books by current authors subscribing to a trend and famous people's titles. I would in addition display books by little known authors in Sweden and abroad. Every author deserves to be recognised. Not just a chosen few.

If you could have only one author event, who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
If she was alive I would invite the fabulous Finnish author Tove Jansson and request she reads an extract from her novel The Summerbook. It's a wonderful book and bestseller all over the world.

A customer comes up to the till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I would tell them to buy the book if they enjoy strong and relatable characters and stories with a psychological twist and big heart!

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I would offer several; Swedish sticky chocolate cake, Princess cake and cinnamon rolls!

*


Hélene Fermont is an Anglo-Swedish author of contemporary women’s fiction with a psychological twist. We Never Said Goodbye is Hélene’s second novel, following on from her 2016 debut novel Because Of You.

Hélene’s works feature a Scandinavian-British narrative and in-depth psychological characterisations inspired by her experience as a psychologist working with victims of abuse. Hélene lives both in Middlesex, UK and Malmö, Sweden. @helenefermont / helenefermont / www.helenefermont.com

Sunday, 9 April 2017

March's reads

Best talk about the books read in March before April is over. Somehow, even though it was a busy month, I managed to squeeze in five books. I think I might have already found my book of the year… is that allowed when we’re only April?!

This book was massively popular a couple of years back. I bought a copy but shelved it away as I didn’t want the hype to ruin the book for me. This is a great short fable about Sprout, a caged-hen who is no longer satisfied with laying eggs on command. She has a dream to escape into the wild and to hatch her own egg. Sprout is a plucky heroine in the search for freedom, acceptance, individuality and mostly importantly she’s a rebel against tradition.

This is a powerful book about gender, families and society’s expectations. This is a fascinating book about the way we deal with gender in families and within society. You can read my review here.

This book is amazing, Just believe me. Go and buy it right now. Lindy West tackles feminism, body image, dealing with trolls, and being a woman in this book of essays. This book needs to be handed out to teenage girls. I really wish this type of book was around when I was a younger. Boys should be made to read it especially the ones who body-shame girls. This book is excellent, and I have a feeling it’s going to be one of my best reads of the year.

Laura is left a house and a collection of lost items by her boss, Anthony. She must find the original owners and in doing so she finds that she must let go of the past. This is a sweet story about endless possibilities, chance encounters. I will be reviewing this book in April.

This is a tense novel about marriages, cults and guilt and nostalgia. Birkbeck explores abuses of power, the way a sense of community can draw you into a web of lies and deceit. I will be reviewing this book later in the month.

Don't forget my story, I'll Love You Until The End of Time, is in the Dear Damsels anthology and you can buy it via this link.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sullen Dainty's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we welcome Suellen Dainty to the Imaginary Bookshop series to celebrate her new book, The Housekeeper.

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
The Bookshop Café – short and to the point.


Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
The Bookshop Café would be in one of the streets off Seven Dials in Covent Garden. I love that part of London. It’s got shops and cafes that aren’t part of high street chains, and sections of the roads still have cobblestones. It’s magical.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Yes. It would have a beautiful open plan kitchen, where cooks could prepare and serve delicious food and the best tea and coffee and fresh juices. There would be a large section devoted to free second hand books, donated by customers. People could just take them if they wanted. We’d charge for the new books. There would be armchairs as well, and a sofa or two for people to lounge about. It would be modern, but comfortable. I’d encourage people to read and talk to each other, and not use the place as an office where they could get free wifi.

What would make your bookshop different from all the others?
The free books and the wonderful food. Everyone who worked in the bookshop would love both reading and cooking, and be able to talk eloquently about both.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I’d have all the usual ones – cooking, fiction, non-fiction, plus the free book section. I wouldn’t have a children’s section, because around the corner, I would have another bookshop devoted entirely to them.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table?
I saw a lovely picture recently of a table of books with blue covers. It was for the people who couldn’t remember the title of the book they wanted to buy, but remembered the colour of the cover. So I might try that, changing the colour of the book covers every couple of days.

If you could run only one author event, who would you have? You can pick a living or a dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
This is an impossible question! I think I’d choose Charles Dickens, because he is the best storyteller. I’d let him do and say whatever he wanted.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I’d say that it’s a bit weird, with a lot of random tips on food and recipes, and a bit funny and sometimes very sad. And that once they got to know my heroine, Anne Morgan, they would like her very much.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Why would anyone have just one cake when they could have two or three? I’d bake a Delia Smith coffee and cardamom cake, a River Café pistachio and lemon cake and Claudia Roden’s fantastic flourless orange and almond cake. Oh, and just one more – Elizabeth David’s flourless chocolate cake. It’s always a winner.

*




Suellen Dainty grew up in Sydney, where she worked as a journalist and television reporter before moving to England more than two decades ago. She has worked for Sky News as a producer and director for the original series of The Book Show. Her experience running a B&B in Somerset and shadowing Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche, for his biography, have heavily inspired her writing of The Housekeeper. The Housekeeper is her second novel, her debut, After Everything was chosen as one of Target’s Emerging Authors in the US (the American equivalent of the Richard and Judy Book Club). She lives in west London.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Kate Armstrong's Imgainary Bookshop

Today we welcome Kate Armstrong to Writer's Little Helper to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop. Her novel, The Storyteller, is available, and I will be reading it soon so look out for the review!

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Something simple and straightforward. Probably 'The Bookshop'; why make it more complex than that?

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
With my social hat on, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, which is where I grew up. It's an old textile mill town left behind in the 21st century and becoming increasingly insular and poor. Books were what opened up a wider world for me when I was a child in that environment. I want every child to have that chance.

With a romantic hat on, it would be a destination shop on its own island off Scotland. A Lindisfarne of books.

But most practically, the best place would be in Worcester, where I live. It's a gorgeous old town without an independent bookshop, but with plenty of spare retail space, a population that cares about education and culture, and a literary festival every June.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Coffee during the day; cocktails at night; a small performing stage. There's an incredible bookshop in Trieste, where James Joyce used to write, that is in equal parts coffee shop for writers and bookseller. I'd love to recreate that space where I live.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
The emphasis on enjoying the world of books in situ as well as just being a place to buy. See coffee and cocktails above. I'd also have creative writing workshops in the shop at quiet times of day - bringing the creators of books into the selling environment, providing teaching opportunities for local writers, and building an active literary community around the shop.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I wouldn't ditch a section, but I'd ditch books that are clichés. No celebrity bios, no books that are the continuation of last year's trends, no books on Hygge. Maybe I'm just showing my prejudices here, and this makes me sound like a snob. But each of us only has so much time in our lives to read, and I want everything I read to bring something new to my experience, not just to be a comfort blanket of the same thing over and over again.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The five books most enjoyed by the staff in the last month - with a couple of paragraphs on why. I'd want a mix between well-publicised books, and those that have had no publicity at all. The latter are the ones it's hardest to find out about - that's where a bookseller can really help. Also a display of independent press books. There are some hugely exciting books coming out of these presses that deserve much wider audiences.

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?
Hemingway and Fitzgerald - the hunter and fisher vs the epitome of the Jazz Age. It would be a debate on whose style was a more true representation of life and why readers should read them. In reality Hemingway's style won in 20th century writing - most writers now aim for simple words, clarity, etc. But what if Fitzgerald had won; we'd be in an entirely different literary world. I'd love to see them battle it out. In costume.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
It shows you what depression is like from the inside out, what it is like to be in a different state of mind, what the effect of that is on relationships, on decisions, on the direction your life takes. It's also beautiful, and claustrophobic, and disconcerting. And it was long listed for the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses; who can say fairer than that?

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I'm really not a cake person. Can I have cheese?

*

The Storyteller is now available from your favourite bookshop.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Book Review: This is How it Always is

This Is How It Always Is
By Laurie Frankel
Published by Headline
Published in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

This is How it Always Is is a book you need to read. Laurie Frankel's latest novel is a complex and powerful novel about gender, families and the way secrets turn to lies.

Rosie and Penn have always wanted a daughter especially after having four sons. They try one last time, and Claude is born. Five sons all full of beans, charging through the house.

Life is busy, full of noise, happiness and chaos for this big family. Claude announces one day, he wants to be a girl when he grows up. Rosie and Penn let Claude wear dresses, grow long hair, wear bikinis in the summer, and dream of becoming a princess. Claude's parents are happy for Claude to be whoever he or she wants. Claude's brothers and grandma are accepting, and do not question Claude's transformation.

Yet, the problems begin at school with the teachers wanting to follow protocol, demanding Claude make a definitive answer on gender. The shock spreads across their neighbours and friends. Everyone has an opinion and they are willing to express their views. Frankel takes the reader on a bold journey as the family as they battle for acceptance, becoming wrapped in secrets, lies and insecurities. The families frustrations and triumphs are so detailed and amazing. This is a family who deserves to find their place within this world.

Rosie and Penn face an impossible dilemma - should Claude change or should they try to change the world. Frankel will have you thinking about the way we define ourselves in a world with ingrained expectations on how we should live and behaviour.

This is a touching, thought-provoking novel full of warmness and joy as a family struggle to find a place in their community. This is How it Always is can be purchased from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy to review by the publisher.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Goodbye February...

Erm, so I’ve only read three books in February. It felt like more… but I’m guessing the stats are right. Don’t worry, I have excuses!

It was my birthday so I dragged that out for as long as possible, seeing family, friends, eating cake.

Plus, I spent most of the month writing a brand-new chapter for my novel. I wasn’t expecting that… I know it sounds cheesy but I woke up with the idea and now it’s fully formed.  I’m only four chapters away from finishing this draft and I’m hoping this is the year I can finally be happy with the novel.


Reading
The Eleventh Letter – Tom Tomaszewski
This haunting tale of a psychotherapist as delves back into a case from twenty years ago where a mysterious woman is accused of murdering her friend and her friend’s husband. Part ghost story, part love story. Lies, murder and intrigue. The truth and reality bends inside out, leaving the reader wondering what is the truth to this story.

Young Hearts Crying – Richard Yates
I love Richard Yates novels. He explores the way people set out to find the ‘American Dream’ but end up realising that the reality isn’t like a dream. Everyone around Michael and Lucy seem happier and connected to their ‘art’. This novel explores Post-war America, relationships with each other, with art, mental health issues during the 1960s and 1970s as well as looking at the push and pull of creativity while trying to maintain a family and job. This is a fantastic novel.

Hold Back The Stars – Katie Kahn
Adrift in space, clinging to each other, Carys and Max look back at their relationship on how they found each and were pulled apart by the utopia they live in. Katie Kahn’s debut novel is a crossed between Gravity, One Day along with hints of Logan’s Run. This gripping novel is full of questions about the society we live in now and how it could evolve into a supposed utopia, a unique love story full of hope and fighting for what you believe in.


Interviews
Don't forget Orlando Ortega-Medina stopped by to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series. You can read the interview here.


Right, lets continue with March which is going to be a barrel of laughs as I’ve decided to give up chocolate for lent (I’m not religious but I love a challenge). Don’t ask me why… it felt like a good idea at the time.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Book Review: Books For Living


Books For Living: A Reader's Guide To Life
Will Schwalbe
Published by Two Roads
Available in Hardback
Forthcoming in paperback

The world can be a lonely place even though we live in a connected world when you can't see someone on your timeline or in real life who has the same interests. You’re left with that feeling of being the last one left – the last reader. But Books for Living answers that question - no, you’re not the last reader left.

Will Schwalbe’s latest book, Books for Living, is a passionate, intimate, love letter to reading and books. He explores the power of books to shape our lives in times of crisis, contemplation and joy. Books have been a pillar in his life, and Schwalbe is opening the door and letting the reader find out his reading habits.

Asking a reader about their favourite book brings on sweating, mumbling and a mind going completely blank BUT the best question to ask is ‘what are you reading?’. This is the most joyous question to ask a reader. This is Schwalbe's response to this question, and it makes you feel like you're exploring someone else’s bookshelves – without realising it you’re putting your heart and soul on display and this is what Schwalbe is doing with this book. The reader gets a glimpse into the books which have influenced Schwalbe and shaped his outlook in life. He talks about the books which were there for him when his mother was dying, books to help him through school, books to say when it’s okay to be different.

Schwalbe points the reader in the direction of books to remind us that it’s okay to demand space and solitude, books to remind us to enjoy life and its small joys. Books to remind us to carry on living, be open to possibilities. This book contemplates if books can save lives. I think they can – either offering advice or escape in times of heartache, crisis or when there are turning points in our lives. Books can also guide us towards the life we want.

Books For Living contains a full range of book recommendations from the classics to Man Booker winners. My wish list is already bulging from the books Schwalbe talks about. At the moment, my list contains The Power of Habit (which I own but haven’t read), Azar Nafisi’s Reading in Tehran, and read more Daphne du Maurier.

This book is full of personal stories and recommendations and would be an ideal gift for any reader. Books For Living is available from your favourite bookshop.

This book was sent to me via Bookbridgr.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Motivation




"Finish it. There is nothing more depressing than an abandoned manuscript."  
Lionel Shriver 







I've had this quote in my inbox for the past year, and I read these words every time I doubt my writing ability and worry about every finishing this novel.

I thought it was time to share it and hopefully it might inspire you.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Orlando Ortega-Medina's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we welcome Orlando Ortega-Medina to the Imaginary Bookshop. Orlando's debut book, Jerusalem Ablaze is out now.

Jerusalem Ablaze includes 13 stories about love, obsession, faith, desire and redemption which take the reader from Japan to Quebec in Canada to California and to Jerusalem Notable stories include a Japanese boy’s understanding of the ferocity of hate an adulterant’s unusual fantasies about a werewolf Richard Wagner and a young priests’ encounter with a blood-thirsty dominatrix.

*

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Words Without End

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Mumbai – the largest city in the country with the most readers.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
The shop would be designed like the interior of the Star Ship Enterprise from Star Trek. It would have a multilingual staff, including at least one person who speaks Klingon, one person who speaks Elvish, and one that speaks Esperanto, and the books would be available in all the languages into which they have been translated. The shop would feature a combination performance space/cinema for events, readings, and screening Sci-Fi classics. There would also be a Star-Trek style cocktail bar for relaxing and networking, with recorded intergalactic jazz and pop playing in the background. The bookstore itself would have lots of interesting, comfy reading niches. Finally, there would also be a lending library section.

What would make your bookshop different from all the other ones?
Words Without End would be a destination for lovers of Sci-Fi from all over the world, and for those who are Sci-Fi curious.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Anything and everything that is Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and related, would go up on our shelves.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Our display table would contain the best of the best literary Science Fiction books, including foundational classics, Sci-Fi by both female and male authors, and Sci-Fi (in translation) from all around the world, e.g. from Cuba, India, Israel, and Japan. Following are some specific titles we would feature on our opening day, in [Roman] alphabetical order:

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
A Legend of the Future by Agustín de Rojas
Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights by Ryu Mitsuse
The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
The Female Man by Joanna Russ

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 invite H.G. Wells, and we would compare and contrast with him the world in which we are living with the one he predicted in his books, and to ask him where he sees us going from here.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
Our idea of a great book is one that is well-written, tells a great story, takes risks, does not shy away from controversial or difficult issues, and stays with the reader for a lifetime. Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions is such a book.

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

Space Cake, of course. For those who prefer something more earthbound, we would offer Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake with Halva Dairy-Free Ice Cream

*

Jerusalem Ablaze ( Cloud Lodge Books) by Orlando Ortega-Medina will be out on the Thursday 16th February.