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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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The Storyteller is now available from your favourite bookshop.