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.