Friday, 10 October 2014

Books Are My Bag Launch 2014

Last night, the 2014 Books Are My Bag campaign kicked off with a fantastic launch event at the new flagship Foyles Store, Charing Cross Road. Boasting a stock of over 800,000 books, the iconic building was the perfect location to host this celebration of books and bookshops.

Dame Gail Rebuck, Chair of the Penguin Random House UK board, welcomed the guests, proclaiming the evolution of BAMB from its earnest beginnings as a  ‘campaign’ last year, to a serious and significant ‘movement’, thanks to the support of booksellers, publishers, authors and readers.
Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel author, charmed the crowd with her anecdotal experiences as an author, as she reminded guests of the magic of a bookshop and its important place in a community.

Finally, Tim Walker, president of the Booksellers Association, closed the speeches with a heartfelt thank you to those who have supported the campaign, listing the numerous events going on across the country in support of BAMB this weekend. These include: a stand- up for Bookshops comedy event featuring event featuring Jenny Éclair, Sara Pascoe and Robin Ince at Foyles and 100’s of “meet the author” in-store events at chain and independent bookshops across the country.

Adding to the excitement, on Saturday 11 October, high street bookshops will be throwing Big Bookshop Parties to support the campaign and limited edition tote bags designed by award-winning British artist, Tracey Emin, will also be on sale. The iconic Books Are My Bag orange tote will also be on sale and leading children’s illustrators across the country have teamed up to help publicise this year’s campaign by re-drawing some of the UK’s best-loved children’s characters with the tote.
Pictures courtesy of Books Are My Bag

The launch also saw the release of The Bookshop Book, Jen Campbell’s sequel to Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which features 50 UK bookshops. She will be attempting an ambitious world-record breaking most-bookshops-in-a-day tour of London on October 11.

My colleague and I are very grateful to the Books Are My Bag team for our invitation to Thursday’s launch and for putting on such a delightful celebration of what should remain at the heart of our publishing industry – books and bookshops.

For more information on events, visit

Monday, 6 October 2014

Leigh Russell - Race to Death Blog Tour

Today I am very excited to be hosting the first stop on the Leigh Russell Race to Death blog tour.

Leigh Russell is a prolific writer who, best known for her Geraldine Steel series, is a bestselling author in print and eBook format. Race to Death is the second title in Leigh Russell's latest series featuring newly promoted DI Ian Peterson. Rather than writing a review today, I am delighted to be able to share with you a feature post written by Leigh.

Considering that Leigh has been a published author for a number of years, and that I am very new to the publishing world, I wanted to take advantage of Leigh's experience with this feature. I am constantly being told that the industry has been completely overhauled in recent years thanks to the digital revolution. Therefore, for this blog tour stop, I asked Leigh Russell to tell me a bit about how the world of publishing has evolved in her eyes since she began writing. Here's what she had to say:

My own personal writing process has changed almost beyond recognition over the past six years. To begin with I wrote longhand, in pencil. The first draft of Cut Short was written with no plans for the future. I had no idea anyone else would ever read it, let alone publish it. Certainly it certainly never occurred to me that it would become the first in a long running bestselling series, nominated for major awards and reaching number 1 on kindle. At that stage I was writing just for myself. Nine books on, I have abandoned handwriting in favour of typing my manuscripts. It's much faster, which is just as well as I'm now delivering two manuscripts a year to my publisher. The other big change is that I now write for my readers, not for myself.

            The world of publishing has also undergone huge changes, which are ongoing. When my debut, Cut Short, first came out in paperback, in 2009 a fellow author suggested I ask my publisher to bring it out as an ebook as well. At that time, I had heard of ebooks but wasn't quite sure what they were... The ebook duly came out about six months after the paperback and that happened again in 2010 with Road Closed. By the time Dead End was published in 2011, the ebook and print book were published at the same time. Sales of my books are huge on kindle, with all of them reaching the Top 10, and one even hitting the coveted number 1 spot. Sales figures of my print books are not quite so high, and that seems to be a trend throughout the publishing industry. I do wonder where books sales will go next.

            Another change that has come about due to the internet is that it is now possible for readers to contact authors directly. A day never passes now without my receiving an email via my website, or a DM on facebook or twitter, from a fan of Geraldine Steel or Ian Peterson. It's lovely to hear from readers all around the world, and I always respond as promptly as I can. This is a bonus that simply didn't exist for authors just a few years ago.

            My life as an author has changed so much since Cut Short came out in 2009. Who knows what further changes are in store for us?

A very interesting question indeed, one that is both exciting and daunting for someone just starting out in the industry! Although the digital changes in publishing pose lots of challenges to publishers and authors, they also offer a lot of opportunities and you can read something I wrote a while back about the new author-publisher-reader relationship here.

I'm very grateful to Leigh for taking the time to share her experience as an author with me. For more about her books and upcoming events visit . For more feature posts like this, visit
To purchase Race To Death click here

The Blog Tour

The next stop on the Race To Death blog tour is Our Book Reviews and you can check out the rest of the blog tour schedule below:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Her by Harriet Lane

Unfortunately the constant rush of the 'real-world' in which I appear to have found myself, has caused me to neglect this blog terribly over the past few weeks. I'm hoping to post a whole host of reviews and features this week to make up for it!

First up is a book that I recently read before attending my very first Elle Book Club event (thanks to my colleague, Frances, for hooking me up with a ticket!)

The book in question was Her by Harriet Lane and the Book Club took place in the very swanky indoor courtyard at The Hoxton, London. I always find it a thrill to listen to authors talk about their work as I find it so fascinating to discover what their intentions were when writing the book and how they hope for readers to respond (and then, more interestingly, whether my response actually matched their hopes!). Having found Her an extremely intriguing read, I enjoyed listening to Lane read three passages from the novel before answering questions about its conception.

First of all, let me tell you a little bit about the book. Her tells a story of two women whose paths cross many years after their first meeting. As mothers and wives, they lead distinctly different adult lives, yet they are somehow connected in a dark and sinister fate. What begins as a very simple and domestic setting is given a cutting, unsettling edge, as one of them - harbouring a deep grudge - attempts to wreak havoc on the life of the other.

The 'thrilling' aspect of this 'psychological thriller' comes from the way in which Lane builds tension through the alternating perspectives of the chapters and the reader's sense of unknown. To tell you a more detailed account of the plot would therefore be to rob you of the experience of reading it!

Listening to Harriet Lane talk about Her, it was clear that her intention was subtlety. In fact, she explained that the book wasn't about creating a complicated, clichéd story, but it was about playing on the ordinary person's worst fears. Lane even explains this within the text of the novel, where a certain passage of the narrative highlights the fact that over-contrived climaxes of stories can't possibly accurately reflect life.

It's in its subtlety, then, that Her succeeds in its ambition; to unease, to unsettle and to intrigue. I finished the novel feeling confused and troubled by the female relationship that had been presented to me, so I think Lane achieved her desired response from me as a reader, and, although it wasn't the most pleasant of reads, I appreciated the courage and honesty of writing something so close to potential reality. Lane explained that she considered it an act of flattery to not tie up the story into one neat, contained ending. For her, it is the reader who should choose what comes next in the book. I suppose to decide that for yourself, you'll have to read it first.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Last Bus to Coffeeville Virtual Summer Road Trip!

Today I am delighted to host the final stop on the @noexitpress Last Bus to Coffeeville Virtual Summer Road Trip!

Throughout July and August, bloggers from all over Europe have been posting reviews, interviews and #Coffeeville inspired features as they discuss this brilliantly original debut novel by J. Paul Henderson.

The Novel

The subtitle of Last Bus to Coffeeville proposes it to be 'a funny story about sad things' - a description that is completely apt. Having grown up watching her grandmother and mother suffer with Alzheimer's, Nancy decides she does not want to face the same fate and calls upon her best friend and college lover, Gene, to help. She makes him promise to put an end to her suffering if and when she begins to lose her memory.  Little does Gene know that after years of living separate adult lives, he will be called upon to uphold his promise. But when Nancy is admitted to the secure unit of a nursing home, Gene's plan to fulfil her wishes by taking her to her favourite place, Coffeeville, is hindered. That's until he enlists the help of his godson Jack, and their old friend, Bob, to break Nancy out.

On a tour bus once stolen from Paul McCartney, Nancy, Gene, Bob, Jack and Eric - a young orphaned boy who the group take under their wing -  embark on an unforgettable journey through the South, from Hershey, Pennsylvania, to Coffeeville, Mississippi.  Cue an extremely funny string of events that unfold in a style that many have likened to Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

As the roadtrip takes the clan through the heart of the South, Henderson's impeccable research and skill at merging history with fiction stands out. This novel not only addresses the themes of euthanasia, love and friendship, but ingeniously traverses important moments in 20th century American history, from the civil rights movement, through popular culture, to Hershey chocolate. You can see more about the places that the characters visit by clicking on the map below (but you should definitely read the book first!):
Click here for the interactive map

What I loved most about Last Bus to Coffeeville, and what I think makes it unique, is the way in which Henderson offers the back stories of all of the characters one by one as they merge and culminate into this one final dysfunctional family of misfits.  Each character is given his/her moment, and thus Henderson chronicles lives that seem far more real and vivid than just pieces of a plot.

I think this attention to detail is what makes it so successful at addressing the serious subject of Alzheimer's, too. Often diseases such as this are difficult to discuss due to their sensitive nature. Art has always been a way to tackle such topics, and J Paul Henderson touches upon this serious subject with a lightness and a respect that is remarkable.
This truly is a charming, uplifting and considered read. One that you will not regret!

The Author


J. Paul Henderson was born and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire, gained a Master’s degree in American Studies and travelled to Afghanistan. He worked in a foundry, as a bus conductor, trained as an accountant and then, when the opportunity to return to academia arose, left for Mississippi, returning four years later with a doctorate in 20th Century US History and more knowledge of Darlington Hoopes than was arguably necessary. (Hoopes was a Pennsylvanian socialist and the last presidential candidate of the American Socialist Party). American History departments were either closing or contracting, so he opted for a career in academic publishing. He now lives in a house in England, drives a car and owns a television set. And that’s about it.

The Road Trip

Henderson's charm isn't unique to Last Bus to Coffeeville, either. Throughout the #Coffeeville Road Trip, this brilliant author has written features and given interviews with bloggers and, as you can see from the links below, his endearing, witty style simply permeates everything he writes.

But don't take my word for it, see what Henderson and the other #Coffeeville bloggers have to say by visiting:

1. Laura's Little Book Blog for Paul's perfect holiday
2. Cup of Coffee and a Book for Paul's top 10 favourite books
3. A Spoonful of Happy Endings to learn more about the interactive road trip map
4. Books, Biscuits and Tea for Paul's perfect road trip playlist
5. Writer's Little Helper for Paul's imaginary bookshop
6. Page to Stage Reviews for Paul's ultimate road trip
7. On My Bookshelf for a review and give-away
8. A Book and a Tea for some coffee inspired recipes - yum!
9. She Loves to Read for A Day in the Life of Paul
10. Reviewed The Book for a review
11. Laura's Little Book Blog for another review
12. Writer's Little Helper for, yes you've guess it, a review!

If these snippets of humour and humility haven't enticed you enough, the novel even has its own website over at And when you're ready to jump on board the Last Bus to Coffeeville, you can purchase it here.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Harry's Last Stand - Harry Leslie Smith

‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’ 

As I sat on my sofa, TV on in the background, iPhone carefully poised at my side and opened this book, I wondered whether I was really in the right frame of mind to begin what I anticipated would be a hard-hitting read. It took all of five sentences for me to switch off every noise-emitting device and settle in; this isn't a book that you read with one eye trained on Facebook, this is a book that demands your uninterrupted focus. Harry's Last Stand demands you sit up and pay attention.

As the back cover summarises, Harry Leslie Smith "is not an historian, but at 91, [he] is history". Born into the poverty and deprivation of the post WW1 Great Depression, Smith was only 18 when he joined the RAF and fought for Britain in the Second World War. Without doubt, he has seen more in his lifetime than most of us could even imagine. This book is at once memoir and manifesto, seeking to awaken a generation who, seemingly having forgotten the history behind our current way of life, sit idle as it comes under threat.

As a memoir, Harry's Last Stand has the charming rhetoric of your grandfather telling stories of his life at the kitchen table. Memories, both harrowing and happy, recur as Smith dips in and out of almost ten decades worth of experience. He uses his personal history to explain how he sees the society his generation built at risk of regressing to dark, austere times. An avid reader and established writer, it is unsurprising that Smith's prose flows seamlessly between memory, historical contextualisation, contemporary anecdote and compelling thought.
As a manifesto, Harry's Last Stand is poignant, humbling and challenging. It is so much more sincere, inspiring and provocative than any politician's speech I've heard in recent elections - speeches with which we all seem to be disillusioned. A socialist, Smith voices political concerns about the imminent collapse of the Welfare State - threats to the NHS, inadequate social housing and a benefit system which no longer protects the vulnerable. He voices his anger at the way in which the poor are demonised by politicians and the media, at the perpetuation of the notion that our current socio-economic imbalance is unavoidable, and at the bleak acceptance of this state of affairs that has become imbedded in our subconscious. Smith recounts his memories of communities pulling together and demanding change as he traces Britain’s history, proclaiming his fears of what will become of an increasingly divided, fearful and consumption-driven 21st century society.

Like the majority of voters, Smith is disillusioned with both the Right and the Left, who don't seem to offer a whole lot of difference these days. He is appalled by the unfathomable inequality in our society where "according to Oxfam five families control 20 per cent of this nation's wealth", meanwhile an increasing number of British citizens live in states of unemployment, underemployment, poverty and homelessness. While interspersing his real-life experiences with shocking yet factual statistics, Smith asks us to stop simply accepting this systemic inequality as if it is inevitable. Although there are some points where I might disagree with Smith on an ideological basis, namely his perspective on religion, there is no doubt that his position is steadfast, his arguments valid. As opposed to the wavering, lacklustre politicians of today, this war veteran writes with a resoluteness that inspires response.

But what kind of response? Firstly, read the book. I think it should be compulsory reading for everyone. Put it on the bloomin' school syllabus that has been causing (rightly so) so much uproar of late. Teach young people not only about the bravery that was demonstrated by generations gone by, but about what that bravery accomplished. If nothing else Harry’s Last Stand is a concise and accessible insight to a history that needs to be remembered in order for it not to be repeated. At a time when social media and news channels abound with touching tributes of gratitude to the fallen heroes of World War One, let us not forget that their sacrifice wasn't so that democracy could be taken for granted.
Secondly, therefore: VOTE. As Smith mentions, Russell Brand's style of revolt against the political system by encouraging a boycott of elections achieves nothing. Instead, get involved. Local elections are the place to start. Politics should be taught in schools. Young people should learn about how our democratic system works as it is integral to our daily lives. The sheer complexity of the political system is a mist through which many do not even try and see - it is far easier to plead ignorance; this has to change.
One last thing: Smith points out that despite general stereotypes of people his age in the media, he is not a nostalgic, backwards thinker resisting the modern age. He is more prolific on Twitter than most people I know, recently tweeting:

Harry's Last Stand isn't just some long lament about what is wrong with contemporary society - it is that - but it is a call to activism, too. At 91, Harry is defiant and hopeful. I dare you to read this and not feel the same way.

I certainly will be passing it on to my friends and relatives and thank Icon Books and Leena (@leenanorms) for my copy and of course, Harry Leslie Smith, for making me pay attention.

Price: GBP 12.99
Pages: 224
Publication date: 05-06-2014

Monday, 28 July 2014

Interning at Oldcastle Books - Weeks 3 & 4

Counting weeks three and four as two weeks feels a little bit like I'm cheating. You see, I've technically only worked six days, what with having two days off for my graduation and only working a four day week ordinarily anyway! However, short as it may have been, it was jam-packed with experience.

I've been working on a couple of projects; as I mentioned in my last post, I've written tweets to promote our #WWIhistory novels which are now scheduled to post over the month - follow @Oldcastlebooks for info and interesting #Onthisday1914 facts! I've also compiled tweets promoting our #Coffeeville Virtual Summer Road Trip which kicked off last week and got to relive some of the fun of arts & crafts at school by making a map to plot the locations of our blog tour stops:
Picture courtesy of Frances Teehan
Aside from drawing pretty coloured lines, I've been doing some hard-core marketing work i.e. contacting various editors and producers for reviews of our publications, and liaising with our distributors to get the books where they need to be.

I've also got a few tasks in the pipeline such as proofreading a new book we're publishing, thinking up ideas for press releases and, of course, more blogger research (which is essentially allowing me to do what I'd be doing at work!)

Tomorrow I've been invited to attend a PPC meeting with Frances which I'm really excited about - I can't wait to meet more people in the industry and hopefully learn lots! It's in London at the new Foyles which I haven't been to yet (gah!) so I'm super excited for that.

Although I'd always thought my ideal job would be in editorial, I'm really enjoying the marketing and publicity work that I've been doing here. In fact Oldcastle really is a great first step in my career path as I've been able to dip my feet into so many publishing ponds. (I feel like I've mixed up that analogy somewhere but let's just go with it!)

Anyway, the internship was supposed to be just for the month of July however Oldcastle have kindly invited me to stay on as a paid intern throughout August which I'm delighted about - I certainly feel like the longer I stay, the more I'll learn and the more I'll be able to contribute. One week or two week placements here and there are of course fantastic opportunities, but its really nice to think I'll be able to see one or two projects through to their end :)

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Summer Reading Challenge 2014

This weekend the #SummerReadingChallenge kicks off in libraries nation-wide. The initiative, which has been in place for a number of years, seeks to enthuse children about reading. The challenge encourages children of all ages to read six books over the summer and chat to volunteers about what they've read, in exchange for stickers and prizes. Local libraries have been recruiting volunteers to help with the sign up and to record the childrens' reading throughout the summer and generally get them talking about the books. This year, the theme is #MythicalMaze - novels which are sure to inspire the childrens' imagination!

I went into my local library as soon as I came home from university to see about getting involved with the community in some way and when I heard about this summer-long project, I thought it was a great idea. As someone who spent her youth absorbed in Nancy Drew novels (while everyone else was reading Harry Potter), I think it's really important to allow children to develop their own reading tastes, but the most important thing is to firstly get them used to the idea that reading can be fun, enjoyable and cool! The reading challenge is open to everyone, regardless of age or reading level and with schools and parents on board, I'm sure it will be a great success!

I look forward to meeting the young readers and can't wait to hear what they have to say about the Mythical Maze books!