Sunday, 2 December 2018

This blog is getting dusty...


I'm not sure if there's anyone left reading this little corner of the internet. This blog has become quite sparse recently, and my monthly wrap ups have slipped a bit as there have been quite a lot of things happening.

Lets start with the good stuff...

I went away to Barcelona for a week at the beginning of November and let me tell you it's nice to be walking around with no coat on in November (except for that one day where it poured with rain. We did lots of sightseeing and eating in Barcelona (and I'm still not bored of Tapas). The architecture of this city is beautiful - crazy paving, curvy, eye catching. There is also something new to look at as you're walking through the city.

For me the highlight was the Sagrada Familia - a magnificent church, designed by Gaudi, which started to take shape in 1882 and is still being worked on today. They are meant to finish in 2026! The stain glass is amazing and the pictures don't go it justice but if you're ever in Barcelona then I definitely recommend going there. Oh, and definitely buy your tickets in advance online.

We also went to the Picasso Museum, the Gaudi park, the beach, a bus tour of the city, the cathedral and also a quick pit stop at an English bookshop! And that's not the complete list. You can find more pictures of my trip over on Instagram.

I got a kitten too. Her name is Poppy, and here she is posing near the bookshelf (talk about being 'on brand') and she's currently into everything. She is a rescue kitten, after her pregnant mum was found in a field and she gave birth the next day to a large litter of kittens. Poppy loves cuddles, charging around the place and biting - I'm hoping the biting stops soon or I'm going to change  her name to Vampire Cat.

 I have also been working on a short story collection, and I am hoping to talk more about this soon. The plan is to publish most of my stories in a neat little Ebook package. I'm currently at the stage of being unable to decide which stories to keep and which ones to leave out.

So then on to the not so good news. The other week I had some pre-cancerous cells removed, which were found in a routine examination. I've lost quite a bit of blood and I'm currently in lots of pain. I've been worrying about this since I found out in October so my mind for blogging and reviewing was taken up with worrying. As you can see I've not labelled this 'bad news' as it's good that I'm dealing with this before it becomes something more serious.

I will be back later in the week with a wrap up of all of the books I've read during October and November.

Take care,

Monday, 26 November 2018

Chuck Caruso's Imagainary Bookshop

Today Chuck Caruso, author of the The Lawn Job and The Meaning of Blood, has popped by for the second time to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

Chuck's latest collection of stories, The Meaning of Blood, contains 16 twisted tales ranging from western noir, crime thrillers, horror.


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
I’d call my imaginary bookshop Dark Matters.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
The bookshop would be located across the street from a cemetery.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
The bookshop would also include a basement with a museum of creepy items, such as medieval torture instruments, blood stained items associated with famous murders, etc.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
We would specialize in all manner of dark literature. If it’s bleak, grim, bloody, we would have it on offer.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Our sections would be unconventional in that we wouldn’t make the usual genre distinctions but would rather have thematic or topical sections, such as Murder, Death, Hauntings, Evil, Weird, and so on.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table?
I love books that are aesthetically pleasing as art objects in and of themselves, so our display table would feature books like the hardback editions of Christopher Moore’s Serpent of Venice, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, and the lovely editions of Scarlett Thomas’s novels. There are lots of small presses putting out gorgeous books, like Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic & Fantasy. I’m pleased my own publisher, Cloud Lodge Books makes it a priority to have striking jacket designs. Of course, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but some jackets seems to magically encourage the book into a reader’s hands.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
I’d love to host an author event for Edgar Allan Poe. Not only is he my favorite author, but he’s a writer who died without ever realizing the lasting impact his work would have on world literature. Despite the success of “The Raven” near the end of his life, he never knew how beloved and influential his short fiction would be.

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?
Readers should buy a copy of THE MEANING OF BLOOD because it will disturb and delight them. They will be scared by some of these stories but they will also find themselves laughing a lot. It’s a wide-ranging collection that has something for all tastes.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting and blackberry filling.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Susie Boyt's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Susie Boyt has popped by on her blog tour of her novel, Love and Fame, to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop.

Susie Boyt's sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press.


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop? 
Boyt’s Books

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located? 
There is a defunct cafe on the corner of my street in London near Chalk Farm. I’d have it there. The place is empty now but it used to be a cafe upstairs and a legal practice downstairs and had a very exciting clientele, some indiscreet out of work actors and the housekeepers of the rich and famous. The overhearings were very choice. And if you liked coffee while dreaming up a lawsuit it was the perfect place. If I had a bell on the door connected to the front door of my house I could sprint down the street whenever we got a customer which would keep me on my toes.

Would your bookshop have any special features? 
I worked in a bookshop in Covent Garden for a couple of years after University and people would always come in and ask me advice so I’d have a little advice bureau in a quiet corner, for matters bookish and matters not. In my new book the heroine works in a bookshop in a touristy area and people often come in and ask things like ‘Is Freddie Mercury buried near here?’ or 'Can I charge my phone?’ which is infuriating for her. She sometimes avails herself of the self-help station, when it’s quiet.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones? 
The owner would be able to recommend a book for all conceivable personality types, moods and occasions and the advice would be legendary! 

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch? 
I’d have a very big poetry section and I’d encourage the staff to learn a poem every week off by heart and I’d also ask everyone who worked in the shop to curate a shelf of their favourite things. I might be a devil and ditch the sports’ sections, although I’d love anything by Serena Williams, obviously.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? 
I would link the table to the seasons perhaps so for autumn I’d have books with a back-to-school zeal to them as well as novels about bitter-sweet love affairs, poignant memoirs, ageing Broadway legends and baking bibles.

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? 
Zadie Smith is very good at singing, so I’d love to have her in to do that with a madcap jazz trio on a wintery evening. She could start by singing that old classic love song, ‘If they asked me I could write a book/ About the way you walk and whisper and look.’ I love singing although I am not very good at it I am great at remembering lyrics so I’d quietly join in, half-hidden behind the till. Or I would host an event featuring the four Elizabeths: Bowen, Taylor, David and Jane Howard, all of whom I admire. To have an hour’s conversation with Henry James would also be a dream come true. I would regale him with my favourite sentences of his such as the one in The Golden Bowl where he describes Paris as ‘Brighton at a hundredfold higher pitch’ or when young Maisie is embraced by her savage mother in What Maisie Knew and feels as though she has been ‘thrust, with a smash of glass, into a jeweller’s shop-front’...

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 Love & Fame is a serious investigation of grief, disguised as a comedy about show business - something for everyone.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop? 
That is the question. For a 40th birthday recently I made a chocolate and almond cake and covered it with raspberries and cream and fat pink roses. The smell of the flowers and the chocolate was so lovely when the candles were burning, so perhaps I would make that. I like cakes that look decadent or a bit drunk or as though they themselves have eaten too much cake...


About Susie...

The daughter of Suzy Boyt and artist Lucian Freud, and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. Susie Boyt was educated at Channing and at Camden School for Girls and read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, graduating in 1992. Working variously at a PR agency, and a literary agency, she completed her first novel, The Normal Man, which was published in 1995 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. She returned to university to do a Masters in Anglo American Literary Relations at University College London studying the works of Henry James and the poet John Berryman.

To date she has published six novels. In 2008, she published My Judy Garland Life, a layering of biography, hero-worship and self-help. Her journalism includes an ongoing column in the weekend Life & Arts section of the Financial Times. She is married to Tom Astor, a film producer. They live with their two daughters in London. 

Twitter @SusieBoyt

Monday, 8 October 2018

September's Reading

Library book, book club book, short novels, and a non-fiction book. This month has been a good mixture of books, and I'm really surprised that I managed to read as much as there were long walks by the canal in London, soggy walks around central London, rollercoasters and Bakewell tarts in Bakewell. 

Girl Meets Boy - Ali Smith
This was a re-read, and it remembered me how much I love reading Ali Smith's novels. Repackaged for The Canons series by Canongate with a bright and bold cover. Inside, this modern retelling of Ovid's Metamorphoses is punchy, fresh and funny. It's about girls finding boys, girls finding girls, love transforming lives, politics changing lives. You'll get whipped up with the pace and lyrical language. This reminded me that I must get around to reading Ali Smith's Autumn. This is a great book but Hotel World will always be my favourite Ali Smith.

Widow - Fiona Barton
Jane Taylor has a seemingly perfect life - a lovely house, a lovely husband, a nice job. She considered her husband her Prince Charming. Yet he is on the front page of every newspaper, being called a monster, being interviewed by the police for the disappearance of a toddler. Jane must keep a brave face in public. Yet, now her husband has died, and the truth is about to come out. Jumps in the timeline, alternate chapters from different characters keep my attention through the story but I really wanted more depth from the characters.

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
I love Margaret Atwood, and I'm enjoying the Canons myth series too. This novel, like Girl Meets Boy, has a striking cover. The devoted wife of Odysseus, Penelope walks the underworld, ready to tell her story. Lust, greed, murder are all crammed into this short novel. I really enjoyed it.

The Party - Elizabeth Day
A couple of months ago I read this amazing article on why we should learn to embrace failure by elizabeth Day, and I knew I wanted to read her novel, The Party. I added this to my list, and while in the library, joining up as my membership had lapsed for over a decade, I spotted the book so I  borrowed it. Cross between The Talented Mr Ripley and The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, this is a book about society and manipulating characters to better their lives. I really enjoyed this book, and the way Elizabeth draws the reader into the characters' lives. Unnerving plot and complex characters. I'm glad my first book from the library was a good one!

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig
This is a part memoir, part guide on how we can live a happy life when the world around and the technology is making us nervous, lonely and disconnected. After years of anxiety and panic attacks, Matt has decided to share his experiences on how to survive when society is trying to encourage us to be anxious with constantly breaking news, the need to be thinner, the need to have the lastest waterproof jacket.

Right, let's get started with October - I'm having a delayed spring clean and donating old clothes, books, bags to charity. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

And August Passed in a Flash...

August passed so quickly that it's already half way through September.

In my July post, I said that August was going to be a good month and I'm afraid I was wrong.

It was a fantastic month full of adventures. 

There was a trip to Bletchley Park to learn more about Alan Turing and the code breakers in WWII plus having to battle an impossible roundabout just to get there. A trip to the National Art Gallery in London, and also a weekend to Bath to the Jane Austen Centre to see a strange looking mannequin who was meant to look like Jane Austen but actually looked more like she was passing through on her way to Marks and Spencers to hang out in their window display.

At the end of the month, I went to the Faber offices to hear Miriam Toews and Laura Bates talking about gender, patriarchy, religion, and their books. I'm hoping to read Miriam Toews' new book, Women Talking, either in September or October. 

But did you do any reading I hear you cry!

Well, yes!

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
This is such a fantastic book on the importance of sleep. Exploring the science of sleep, why our bodies crave sleep, ways to have better sleep health. I'm a slow non-fiction reader as I read at a different pace so it has taken me several months to finish but I'm so glad I have. Honestly, everybody should read this book. I now have the blue filter enabled in the evenings on my phone, dim the lights, listen to calm music and read (which I was already doing before) before I sleep. My sleep quality has improved. I definitely appreciate sleep more after reading this book!

Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Sharp writing in this pacy retelling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. Exploring self-knowledge, nature of choice and the way we manipulate others for our own gain. Part of Canongate's The Canons series of retelling of myths with beautiful covers - the set would make a great present for a myths fan. Will be blogging more about this series later this month.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
This is more than this generation's Bridget Jones. This is a book about the push and pull of women against society's expectations, about dealing with emotional abuse and narcissists, about friendships, and dread. Very honest, real, witty. I want there to be a sequel.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Ruth, 30, and her life isn't where she was hoping it would be. After breaking up with her fiance, leaving her job, she agrees to move in with her parents to look after her father who has Alzheimer's. This is a book about discovering who you, family relationships, and acceptance. It's brilliant and funny!


As we're already half way through September I can already say it's a great month... a walk along Regent's Canal, and many more things planned....

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Book Review: The Cartography of Others

The Cartography of Others
by Catherine McNamara
Published by Unbound
Available in paperback and ebook

Catherine McNamara's latest short story collection, The Cartography of Others, not only has a lovely cover but the twenty stories contained inside are an exploration of displacement and estrangement.

Across the stories, we see characters who are on the verge of turning point in their lives. A woman waits in a hotel room for her married love to turn up, absorbing his excuses each time he calls, letting his flakiness knock her confidence. A son is trekking across a hill thinking about this mother's last few moments before she died. A soprano, on a boat, searching for her voice.

All these characters are looking for meaning, searching their past, hoping to find a sigh that will lead them towards their future. Catherine gives glimpses into their inner lives letting the reader see a character, who on the outside appears to be confident, has a great life but are crumbling inside, full of fear of the future.

Full of glamorous locations, vivid in detail, stretching from Sydney's suburbs, Accra, Paris across to Mali. Catherine takes the reader on a tour around the world, giving such precise details that the reader feels like they are actually there with the character, pulling the reader into the snapshot of these characters' lives.

The Cartography of Others delves confidently into the complexities of modern life, delve into people's concerns and fears of change. You can buy The Cartography of Others from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the author.

Monday, 13 August 2018

So That Was July...

Sometimes life gets in the way and distracts you, and I haven't really fancied reading as much or writing in July.

My cat, Tilly, died at the beginning of the month. I adopted her just over 2.5 years ago when I moved into my current home, and it was love at first sight. She rubbed up against my calves when I went to see her for the first time at her foster home. Such a cuddly cat, always meowing away, knew when I needed a cuddle. She was an older cat who needed a home, and although we didn't have as long as I hoped with her I'm still open to adopting an older cat in the future. She would lounge across the sofa, be naughty and snatch food from my plate at dinner time, take up the whole of the bed, and even jumped in the bath a couple of times to enjoy the bubbles!

There was also my mum's birthday, my sister's birthday, and my niece's too - we did laser tag, and I think all of those years spent watching sniper and action movies has paid off. Of course, I took it seriously - I wanted to win!

And the heatwave - too hot to move, too hot to think, everything turning to straw, too hot to read. My concentration shrivelled to the size of a pea.

The end of the July was the opposite of the beginning of the month with a fantastic trip to the Shard. One great thing about the heatwave is that the sky was clear and the view was incredible and we could see for miles. A day full of laughter, lots of walking, lots of cocktails.

It's only half way through August but I can tell it's going to be a great month.

Right, so books read in July. Folks, I think I've already found my book of the year...

I am, I am, I am - Maggie O'Farrell
I'm not sure why I've resisted until now with reading this book. I've seen I am, I am, I am recommended all over Twitter, Instagram and blogs so the world was shouting at me to read it - sometimes I'm oblivious to the signs. Maggie O'Farrell's memorie looks at the author's seventeen brushes with death. Ranging from a near miss in the woods with a man who goes on to kill another girl days later, nearly drowning at sea, a childhood illness she was not expected to survive, miscarriages. This is an insightful look into life's fragility and the need to make sure you seize the day.

When I Hit You - Meena Kandasamy
Possibly my book of the year. Shocking, brave and important about a controlling marriage and one woman's escape from the physical and mental abuse in India. Based in part on the author's own experiences, When I Hit You, delves into the caste system of India, the impacts of traditional gender roles, and one woman's fight from oppression. This is an important book, and is definitely a must read. This book will punch you in the gut as it's raw with emotion. Just bloody fantastic.

The Cartography of Others - Catherine McNamara
Catherine's latest collection of stories explores the lives of characters all on the verge of a turning point in their lives. A woman waits in a hotel room for her married lover to turn up, a son trekking across a hill thinks of his mother's last few moments before she died, a soprano in search of her voice. Characters are displaced, complex full of uncertainty.  There is never a story set in the same location - Catherine takes the reader on a tour around the world from a sail boat in Corsica, a hotel room in Hong Kong, scruffy Paris. Catherine packs so much detail in these stories, pulling the reader into the snapshot of these characters' lives. My review will be appearing later in the month.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Book Review: Disbanded Kingdom

Disbanded Kingdom
By Polis Loizou
Published by Cloud Lodge Books
Available in paperback and ebook

Polis Loizou's debut novel, Disbanded Kingdom, tells the story of Oscar, 22, disengaged from his family and friends, unable to find meaning with his life. He is an outsider and an observer as he wanders the streets of London. He is a shadow in his own life.

He sits on the edges of conversations of his friends as they talk their jobs, their relationships, gossip about each other. They come from privileged backgrounds while he has been thrown into this life of money and wealth, having been adopted, with no memories of his biological family other than being bounced between foster families, adding to his rootlessness and introspective nature.

He is also disconnected from the gay scene, walking through Soho unable to even speak up and have his voice heard - Loizou's writing is full of great details of London, drawing the reader into Oscar's aimless walks. Disconnected and distanced from himself after a break up from his boyfriend. He can't seem to break out from the weight of his own indecisiveness.

Full of melancholy, Oscar is a passive character, full of fear of rejection and worrying about not pleasing people with the expected. He develops a crush on his foster mother's Literary Agent, Tim, and watches him from the sidelines, not wanting to take a chance to see if this man feels the same. As they get to know each other, Oscar opens himself up to different religious and political points of view. He is on the brink of change juxtaposed against Brexit, and the fallout happening around him. There is change in the air but uncertainty and fear taints Oscar. I spent most of the book thinking that he needed a good therapist.

Loizou captures the restlessness of being in your twenties, being pulled and pushed between expectation and desire in this scream of conscious novel. This is a novel about being stuck in a loop about 'what could be' rather than what is actually happening around you. You can buy Disbanded Kingdom from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy from the publisher.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

June's Reading

This should have been posted sooner but I'm really busy at the moment but somehow I have managed to read five books in June. 

Which is really good because we're already half way through July and I've only just started my second book but I've got some good reasons which I'll save for next time (see what I did there - leaving you with a cliffhanger).

I've been trying to use my Kindle a little more just to make my bank balance look like this: Books, books, books, food, parking, books, food, books. There are a couple of drawbacks with the Kindle - one it hurts like hell when I'm drifting off to sleep and it hits me on the forehead, the second that it's simply not a book and thirdly it's hard to take an instagrammable picture of an ebook.

Right so lets look at the books I've read in June...

Disbanded Kingdom - Polis Loizou
Oscar, 22, is a lost cause, walking aimlessly through London, disconnected from his family, his friends, from gay culture. He sits on the edges of conversations and is an outsider to real life. This story tells of Oscar as he tries to find his place in life. A bigger review will be coming soon.

Becoming - Laura Jane Williams
Break ups, lust, sex and wanting to find your better self. Comes with great one-liners like "None of us is fucking up like we think we are." This is a great book if you're lost in life, and need to find a way of getting back to yourself or even re-inventing yourself. Don't worry this isn't a self-help book but more of a memoir as Laura battles through a nasty break up to find out who she really is.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays - Samantha Irby
A collection of essays from Samantha Irby. Each one packs a punch dealing with life, love, diets and other humans. A book full of attitude full of resilience, humour, and warmth. And the front cover has a picture of a cat, and it's yellow which to be is the ideal book cover.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank - Nathan Englander
I picked this book up when it was originally in hardback, because the title was similar to Raymond Carver's collection and I've kept it on my bookshelf since then. I picked this up one New Year's Eve in Waterstones Cambridge and the other book I purchased at the time was disappointing and went straight to the charity shop after I had read it. This collection of stories is a bit hit and miss, and I did find myself skipping over a story if the beginning didn't pull me in. This book tackles big subjects like anti-semitism, Holocaust, Israeli settlements, dysfunctional families but makes sure that he isn't preaching. Morally complex, with sadness and humour - this is a good collection.

The Lying Game - Ruth Ware
This is the third book for work book club. Enjoyed this more than the previous book (which was also a thriller - Dark Places). Complex characters, great atmosphere. Full of twists and turns where the past of a group of female friends catches up with them. Will their friendship survive the secrets and lies?

What did you read during June?

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Book Review: Call of the Curlew

Call of the Curlew
By Elizabeth Brooks
Published by Doubleday
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

New Year's Eve 2015, and 86 year old Virginia feels like her time is up. She knows she will meet her end on the marsh.

Virginia finally be free of guilt she has carried with her through her life, still trapped in her childhood home, unable to make peace with the events of one winter. She is overcome with memories of the past.

Call of the Curlew is an immersive novel, told with a dual time line narrative, pulling the reader in the unsettling setting of Tollbury Marsh, exploring loss, guilt and the way an resolved past can scar you for a lifetime.

1939, Virginia, 11, arrives at a mysterious house, Salt Winds, on the edge of a vast marsh to meet her adopted parents. Life here is different from the orphanage - this couple want to be real parents to her, share their lives with her.

Shifting sands, whipped up winds, cast empty space, luring people into its clutches. The villagers fear the marsh as much as WWII. The war is far away, happening only in cities, and to other people's families but then the war comes to them. A German fighter plane crashes into the marsh one afternoon while Virginia is a Salt Winds with her adopted father. One the same day, her adopted father goes missing, and Salt Winds becomes less a sanctuary and more of a place caught up in secrets and lies.

Virginia is feisty, smart and courageous, with hints of a younger Jane Eyre. This whole novel feels like a homage to the Brontes, and Elizabeth Brooks describes herself as a "Bronte nerd". I loved reading Jane Eyre for my A-Levels - even reading it five times on a loop didn't put me off. A coming of age story where Virginia's life will be spent dealing with the aftermath.

Full of atmosphere, and an uneasy that will have you turning each page, wanting to discover the truth. Elizabeth Brooks pulls the reader in to the building tension, unravelling small details along the way. This is a haunting book and I loved it!

Call of the Curlew is available from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy to review for the Call of the Curlew blog tour. You can find other posts on the following blogs:

Monday, 2 July 2018

New Story Published

Today my short story, My Daughter's Wings, has been published over at Idle Ink. Idle ink are a UK based online magazine published great stories so do read the other stories if you pop over there.

Originally started back in 2015, then left on my hard drive until an editing and feedback round came up on a writing forum I belong to. The feedback gave me the momentum to rejig the story completely and then I left it sitting on my hard drive to simmer away. This has been one of those stories that you chip away rather than coming out fully formed.

The story is inspired by the Icarus myth

Here's the opening paragraph....

"All I can hear is their laughter, in the next room, probably giggling with each other about something silly old mummy has done today. Turning up the television, trying to get the news programme to drown out their nattering. Those hiccups of giggles from Sophie make me smile – I haven’t heard her laugh for a long time. Only Frank knows how to make her laugh. I’m the one who dabs away the blood, soothe the tears, dashing between rooms with trays of food, deal with doctors. Simmer the tantrums."

You can rest the rest here.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

May's reading

May was glorious - the summer has finally made an appearance, bringing lovely sunny days,
thunderstorms and colourful flowers everywhere. Plus a bonus of two bank holidays! Not only did I read five books but I also submitted a story that I've been working on for ages.

This month's reads stretch across memoir, graphic novel, modern fiction and two novels set during WWII but are very different - one in London during the Blitz and another in the country, in the marshlands.

I nearly managed six books but I gave up a book this month too - I managed 150 pages but I found myself not wanting to read it, becoming bored with the characters and not feeling excited to read the book. I don't normally ditch books but I really needed too. I have some fantastic books on my shelves, screaming out to be read.

How to be Happy - Eva Woods
I read this over the first bank holiday because sometimes you need something an uplifting book fully of hope, happiness as well as a few tears. How to be Happy tells the story of Annie how has been sad for a long time and can't remember the last time she was last happy. When she becomes friends with Polly life starts to change. Polly has one hundred days to make Annie happy. Annie is convinced this is impossible but then she starts to realise that days are more bearable and happier and that maybe Polly needs her more than she thought. This is a touching read. Perfect for the summer.

The End of the Fucking World - Charles Forsman (not pictured)
Two teenagers dealing with the fear of growing up, and running away from their parents. Disenchanted with life, with echoes to Catcher in the Rye, they set off on a road trip and promises to change their lives. Full of sociopathic teenagers, angst and pain, The End of the Fucking World is a graphic novel that taps right into the fears of growing up.

Hunger - Roxane Gay
This intimate, painful yet admiring memoir, Roxane Gay tells the story of her body and how a devastating violence changes the way she views herself and others. Such a fantastic book on body image, food, the way we internally feel about our bodies, coping with being a victim of rape. An amazing, raw and honest read. I've always struggled with my body image, worrying that I had too many wobbly bits, comparing myself to others. I wish this book was available when I was younger.

Dear Mrs Bird - AJ Pearce
Sit in London during the Blitz, Dear Mrs Bird tells the story of Emmy who wants to desperately be a lady war correspondent but ends up working for a women's magazine, typing up the problem page for Mrs Bird. However, Mrs Bird doesn't want an unpleasantness on her pages yet all of the letters are pleading for help. Emmy can just sit there binning these letters - she needs to help these women asking for advice. I loved Emmy's voice in the book, and the way its full of authentic details and I didn't want to stop reading. Enduring friendships, and ordinary people dealing with extraordinary events. This is a great book.

Call of the Curlew - Elizabeth Brooks 
Had a slight accident with the cover of this book...erm dog ate my homework?!

This atmospheric book tells the story of Virginia, who in 1939, is adopted by a couple living on the of edge of marshland. Shifting sands, warnings not to venture beyond the wall, secrets spoken about behind doors. One day a German fighter plane crashes, and her adopted father does missing when out rescuing the pilot. Her new home becomes a dangerous place to live, and she will spend the rest of her lift dealing with the aftermath. Call of the Curlew will be out at the end of June, and my review will be appearing at the beginning of July as part of the blog tour for this book!

What did you read in May?

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Book Extract: Shelter by Sarah Franklin

Today sees the release of Shelter by Sarah Franklin in paperback. Shelter is inspired by the little-known history of the lumberjills and Prisoners of War who lived and worked together in the Forest of Dean during WWII and formed unforgettable friendships during this time.

Shelter is available from your favourite bookshop.

To celebrate the launch of Shelter we have an extract...


Connie stuck her tongue out at the face gurning at her from the faded looking glass on the tallboy. Mud was everywhere, in her eyelashes and streaked down her face like bad rouge. It was going to take some serious spit and polish to get spruced up. For a moment she couldn’t remember why she’d agreed to go to the dance in the first place. But Hetty would kill her if Connie missed tonight’s final fling before the other trainees scattered, and it had been too long since she’d been out dancing. Time to make sure she still knew how.

Connie found the edge of the washcloth, spat on it and rubbed her cheek, twisting sideways to see if she’d improved the situation. Not a hope. She was scuppered – time to brave the water. She moved over to the chest of drawers and poured water from the jug that sat there in the porcelain basin. It was as clear as spring water and as cold, too. Nothing like the brown trickle you’d get back in Coventry.

Connie tangled the brush through her hair until it was stick-straight again and tugged off her drenched socks. When she’d been in the hostel, before she’d been billeted here, some of her fellow lumberjills had made a big song and dance about getting changed as soon as they were home from the woods. They’d swan around putting on dainty tea dresses, or the clean skirts and blouses their mothers had sent them.

Some hope of that for her. Connie yanked open the wardrobe door and stared at its contents. The cupboard still smelled of the forest; maybe she’d stop noticing once all her clothes whiffed like that too.

Nothing would fit. She’d have to wear that yellow dress, though she should have got rid of it months ago. Connie pulled it out, hangers jangling. The trousers and overalls that belonged to Amos’s son bumped into her uniforms, releasing another pong of the countryside into the air.

Connie draped the frock against her overalls and dragged the rickety chair over to the window, craning to catch a glimpse of her reflection. Behind the panes, finger-like twigs tapped at her and she jumped. This place gave her the willies, always something creaking or scratching. Whoever thought the countryside was still and calm hadn’t spent any damn time in it.


Sarah Franklin grew up in rural Gloucestershire. She lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes, is the founder and host of Short Stories Aloud and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award. She has written for The Guardian, Psychologies, The Pool, Sunday Express. In 2014, Sarah was awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Mentorship on the strength of her opening pages of SHELTER, and worked on the novel for a year with Jenn Ashworth, amongst others.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Imaginary Bookshop: Dr Leo Lafferty-Whyte

Today Dr Leo Lafferty-Whyte has popped by to launch his new book, Life Satisfaction and to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

Life Satisfaction shows you how to improve your life, not give up and find satisfaction. Offering ways to set goals and frameworks for lasting success. Leo also shows his personal journey through his approaches to happiness.


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
The Book Sanctuary

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Hidden down an alleyway off a major city street. One of those little alleys that only people who know it’s there would see it. It would be a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the world. Very Diagon Alley.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Lots of comfortable seats for snuggling up with a blanket for reading. Our chief executive animal (Newfoundland puppy Bear) would greet all customers at the door with love and enthusiasm. There would be coffee and cocktails available as well.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
It would be a social meeting place and more about reading and escaping from the busy modern world than just being a shop.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I’d have lots of philosophy, science, travel, self-help, religious (both traditional and new age), nutrition, history, fitness. I’d ditch sports sections probably – I’m not a huge fan and the competitive vibe would disturb the chilled out inclusive atmosphere I’d be going for.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I’d have both my own books (obviously) but also a selection from inspiring people like Oprah, Oscar Wilde and Richard Branson. It would be a table for inspiration.

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?

It would have to be Oprah. I’m a huge fan of hers. Her journey through adversity and transformation into such an inspiring leader is something I hope to echo in my own life, even in a small way. It would be a question and answer event. Relaxed, intimate and full of love.

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 ask them if they are feeling satisfied with their life. If they feel they need a framework to get themselves back on track. If they would like to try something that isn’t based on woo-woo and is a practical guide rather than just an inspiring read. If the answer is yes to all three then I think they would get benefit from delving into it.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Key lime pie. Zesty, sweet and refreshing.


Dr Leo Lafferty-Whyte, Ph.D grew up in the North East of Scotland in the 80's and 90's. As a young gay man in a small fishing village he suffered mental and physical abuse on a daily basis. He used his past traumas to fuel his hunger for self-improvement and adopted the life goal of leaving the world a better place than when he entered. After several years’ experience, and receiving his life coaching accreditation, Leo launched Triple ‘H’ Coaching in 2016 and the Triple H Coaching mobile app. In addition he has a degree in Genetics & Immunology from University of Aberdeen and he was awarded a Ph.D in Molecular Oncology from the University of Glasgow. Leo currently lives near Glasgow with his partner and Newfoundland dog, all three of which can often be found hiking a local mountain or relaxing on a woodland walk.

You can buy Life Satisfaction: A Scientist's Guide from your favourite bookshop.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Their Brilliant Careers

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers
By Ryan O'Neill
Published by Lightning Books
Available in hardback
Forthcoming in paperback

We need more books like Their Brilliant Careers. This is a playful, addictive book of a biographies, interlinked, telling the stories of sixteen invented Australian writers.

O'Neill pulls the reader into an imaginary literary scene, blurring the lines between what we consider fiction and non-fiction.

Each story is full of eccentric characters with one customs officer seizing the works of Hemingway and Joyce, rewriting sections and then selling them to publishers while Rachel Deverall who discovers the secret source of Australian literature but suffers a dreadful ending before she can share her research.

O'Neill explores racism, political allegiances, family dramas and rival with the authors in their plotted biographies. Their Brilliant Careers is full of literary references that many book fans will love. Rand Washington, a right-wing writer of racist sci-fi and creator of a cult yet hugely successful has hints of L. Ron Hubbard

O'Neill builds up the layers of the authors with many appearing into each other's biographies, helping to build up a believable thriving literary scene. This brings an authentic feel to the book and could almost fool a casual reader that this is a book of real authors.

Social media has made people very curious about celebrities and we take joy in knowing more about their private lives. However, the internet allows people to curate a styled version of their lives. Their Brilliant Careers is refreshing in a world where people only show their polished sides of their lives as we get to see these authors in their raw state - messy, complicated, no escape from their shady sides of their lives.

Their Brilliant Careers is a witty, addictive, smart read, and this book will definitely not let you go once you start reading. People who love books, and knowing more about the people behind the words will enjoy this book. Their Brilliant Careers is available from your favourite bookshop.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

April's Reading

April gave us a preview of the summer for like three days and then reminded us that England's natural habitat is watercolour grey skies, clouds and drizzle. But we're a couple of days into May and it's looking fantastic already - plus we have two bank holidays so is this the best month?

In April, I managed four books (not all pictured here) and I honestly thought it was going to be less because I've been busy with life - seeing friends, having a horrid cold, going to see the latest Avengers movie - I'm not going to give the plot away but this makes up for the middle of the road superhero movies we've had to suffer to get to this point. I really want to see it again! Not to mention going to the Royal Albert Hall with my sister to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets being played alongside an orchestra. We even managed a trip to the bookshop.

Right, on with the books...

Their Brilliant Careers - Ryan O'Neill
This playful book is a set of stories, linked, telling the story of 16 (invented) Australian writers. I found I couldn't put this book down as it really pulls you into the lives of these characters. A review of this is currently being written in my head so should appear here within the next week or so.

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman
Most of my Norse knowledge has faded over time and replaced by Marvel versions so it was great to read this collection of short stories exploring the Norse Gods.

The Cactus - Sarah Haywood
Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion will love the protagonist, Susan Green. Just like the characters in Simsion's and Honeyman's novels, she is eccentric, annoying but sweet even before one paragraph has ended. She has a rigid life and it's about to unravel out of her control. This book shows readers how stepping outside our comfort zones can be more interesting and fun rather than living within self-imposed boundaries. You can read my review here.

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn (via kindle)
This was the second book for work's book club. I've never read any of Gillian Flynn's novels before and I've only watched Gone Girl on the telly so it was good to read this. Full of twists and turns, this tells the story of Libby Day as she reluctantly takes on the investigation to work out if it was her brother who murdered their mother and sisters over twenty years ago. I don't normally read thrillers so it was interesting to read this.

Preview on May... I've just given up reading a book for the first time this year. I just couldn't connect with the characters or the plot... so bye bye book. I've got too many unread books to be wasting my time on books that don't tickle me.

Friday, 27 April 2018

The Cactus

The Cactus
By Sarah Haywood
Published by Two Roads
Available in hardback, ebook and audio
Paperback is forthcoming

Sarah Haywood's debut novel, The Cactus, is a novel about letting go of control your life and enjoy the complications and diversions.

Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion will love the protagonist, Susan Green. Just like the characters in Simsion's and Honeyman's novels, she is eccentric, annoying but sweet even before one paragraph has ended. She has a rigid life and it's about to unravel out of her control.

Prickly on the outside like a cactus, Sarah Green has wrapped herself up in rules and regulations and a seemingly perfect life to protect herself from dealing with emotions. Haywood creates a fascinating and yet frustrating character with Sarah - she is closed off from the real world, living in a tiny bubble, not really wanting to acknowledge the importance of the people in her life.

Sarah's has the perfect life - a flat in London, a job that she loves for its logical angle, a casual arrangement with a man where both of them can avoid emotional ties but have someone to enjoy dinners, theatre and sex. This life is about to be shaken up even though Sarah is fierce and determined not to let her life become tangled up in family politics and lies.

Following the loss of her mother, and the prospect of becoming a mother, Sarah's life starts to unravel. Secrets and lies start to reveal themselves but Sarah starts to see that she has more friends than she thought she needed.

Uncovering family secrets and feuds will unravel Susan's life. This book shows readers how stepping outside our comfort zones can be more interesting and fun rather than living within self-imposed boundaries.

This is an enjoyable, funny and sweet story. You can buy The Cactus from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Monday, 9 April 2018

The End of Loneliness

The End of Loneliness
By Benedict Wells
Translated by Charlotte Collins
Published by Sceptre
Available in trade paperback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

"The antidote to loneliness isn't just being around random people indiscriminately, the antidote to loneliness is emotional security."

This quote from Benedict Wells' novel, The End of Loneliness, a German bestseller, perfectly sums up this book. This is an incredible story about loss, loneliness, family and love.

Marty, Liz and Jules' childhood is full of warmth, adventure and happiness but this is shattered by the death of their parents in a car crash. 

The tightly-knit family is pulled apart with the children being sent to a grim state boarding school. Here their paths split off, and each one tries to find a way of fighting against the hole of loneliness and fight against crippling grief. Liz becomes a party girl only interested in boys, Marty locks himself away with his computer while Jules floats through school, with only one true friend. Jules fears living, and seems to retreat into a world where his parents are still alive, and he has a happier life. He is nostalgic, much like the main character from Midnight in Paris, longing to be living in the past as this is the only place he is happy.

Like Olivia Laing's The Lonely City, the exploration of loneliness digs deep into the soul and it is fascinating the way Wells pulls apart the many ways loneliness can creep into our lives. Jules is detached from his life, sometimes unable to take the leap from observing to being emotionally involved with life. This fear of living holds him back from being happy with failed jobs, and relationships - running away from commitment, hiding away from society. Yet, there are tender moments when Jules finds happiness, finally marrying the women he has loved since childhood, being a parent.

Wells shows how grief shapes people's lives and the decisions we make when gripped by grief. The End of Loneliness shows how grief never leaves us but morphs into a different shape.

This is a beautifully written and translated novel, full of emotion. I can see this book being on my book of the year list for 2018. End of Loneliness is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

March's reading

Only three books read in March?!

But last month felt like it stretched for years. Lets blame the horrendous cold I had and the fact it made my concentration levels shrink to less than thirty seconds. Actually, that excuse is the truth.

Lets not forget the adventures to Stonehenge, being the last person on the planet to watch Black Panther (fantastic, go see it), becoming hooked on Booktube, and having a clear out of books and old clothes.

The End of Loneliness - Benedict Wells (translated by Charlotte Collins)
I'm going to be writing a longer review later this week but I should probably give you a heads up and tell you that this book is fantastic. Exploring the themes of loss, loneliness, family and love. This book follows the lives of three siblings after their perfect childhood is shattered by the sudden death of their parents. Grief pulls them apart, sending them in different directions with their lives. This is a fantastic book.

Life Lessons from Remarkable Women - various writers
Finding this book turned into a mission with me walking around four bookshops in London (oh I know, the hardship) before getting my mitts on this. This essential book, in a handy size to carry around in any bag, covers essays on starting over, self love, embracing ambition, grief, motherhood, dealing with mental health. These essays are necessary for the modern world, and are all in bitesize chunks so you can easily read one while on the train. Life Lessons is thought provoking, empowering, a call to arms for women - to raise up and not hide in the shadows. I'm definitely going to be going back to this book, and re-reading these essays.

The Course of Love - Alain de Botton
"That strive to normalize our troubles and show us a melancholy yet hopeful path through the course of love." Part romance, part story on surviving and enjoying a modern relationship, part philosophy. My cat was sick on it twice. I enjoyed the book more than she did.

What books did you read in March?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Book Review: Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now
By Jasmine Warga
Published by Hodder
Available in paperback and ebook

I really enjoyed Jasmine Warga's previous novel, My Heart and Other Black Holes, and her lovely responses to the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A so I was happy to receive her newest book, Here We Are Now.

Taliah's quiet teenage life is full of being in a band, having a best friend, going to school, being moody. But this is about to be shaken up and for her life to change. 

This is a novel full of angst, heartbreak, families, friends and music. This is Taliah's coming of age story which Warga captures brilliantly with an authentic teenage voice, full of frustration of stepping away from being a child and annoyed that she still isn't an adult.

Taliah has been writing letters to a rock star for years, telling him she knows he is her father. Her mother is protective of the past, trying to build a better life for her daughter and wrap her in cotton wool from the real world. While her mother is out of the country, Julian Oliver, rock star, knocks on the door, saying that he his there to see his daughter, and asking Taliah to come and visit her dying grandfather. This is the adventure she has been waiting for.

Warga looks at the things that can bring together families during times of crisis. This is a journey of self-discovery for Taliah as she deals with the uncertainties in her life, builds confidence and deals with the unease that she feels towards her family. This is also for her to learn that her mother is more than just the person so how looks after her. Her mother also makes mistakes and this self-realisation brings about a maturity in Taliah.

Set across a week in Taliah's life, Warga packs a punch with all of the events that happen, and keeps the momentum building and the pace fast. I found that I could put this book down as I learned more about Taliah and her parent's past.

You can buy a copy from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via

Monday, 19 March 2018

Marius Gabriel's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Marius Gabriel, author of The Ocean Liner, has popped by to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series. The Ocean Liner is published this week, and tells the story of Masha and Rachel aboard the SS Manhattan in September 1939, bound for New York. The boar must make it across the Atlantic Ocean and through the danger of German U-boats. Will they achieve their dream of a new life in America?


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Wonderful Novels!

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Oh, I think in London. On the Strand, or perhaps on Piccadilly (though not too close to Hatchards)

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Absolutely no distractions. Silence would be enforced by lady wrestlers, who would put a choke-hold on anyone talking too loud or disturbing the peace. But there would be comfy sofas where customers could sit and browse. Customers who sat too long without buying anything would be swallowed up by special jaws in the sofas, funnelled underground and spat out onto the street. On the way, their credit-cards would be charged £20.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
I would try to keep a stock of good second-hand books, especially fine old novels now out of print. And they would be at affordable prices. Anyone who looked shabby, but picked up interesting novels, would be given an automatic discount.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
It would be all-inclusive fiction. No non-fiction, coffee-table books or celeb bios. Just novels from Don Quixote onward.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I would display whatever I was reading at the time, as well as all the books on my to-read list. That way, I would have lots to talk about with customers.

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 get Kazuo Ishiguro, our wonderful Nobel prize winner, to come and talk about his novels, which are among my very favourites. And we would serve sushi and green tea.

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 would give it to them for free. And then face my indignant wife.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I envisage a huge wedding-cake sort of thing, with ten tiers, and hundreds of little marzipan figurines of famous authors on each level. The inside would be a rich fruit cake, and there would be rainbow icing. The authors would be exquisitely-modelled, but so delicious that lucky recipients wouldn't be able to stop from devouring them.


Marius Gabriel’s The Ocean Liner is published by Lake Union Publishing on 20th March. To find out more, click here.