Category Archives: Shelley Harris

London Diary #1 – Ten for 15; Speakeasy @DrinkShopDo

One of the things that I miss about London, and something I would like to address ‘oop north’ in Liverpool if I could get ten minutes, is the literary buzz that runs through the city. I don’t just mean all the famous author living or dead, or the infamous sights, sounds and streets that they write about; I also mean the fact that on almost any given night you will find something wonderfully booky going on in some lovely venue somewhere in the city.

Thanks to the lovely Will who is now Community Manager at Vintage Books, I was invited to such an event called Speakeasy at Drink Shop Do, one of those lovely shops selling gifts (like tea towels, bags, candles, cards and knickknacks that I never knew I wanted until I walk in and promptly need them)  and upstairs has a cafe-cum-bar (careful how you say that) and disco room. I do not know who had this idea but they are a genius – could they please identify themselves and open one in Liverpool instantly that I can run. Anyway tonight was all about ten readings from ten authors whose books look set to cause quite a lot of chatter in 2015, hosted by the very funny and lovely duo comprised of Ian Ellard (who I believe works for Faber) and Tom Pollock (whose books you may have read, I know I have been recommended them by many of you).

So who were the authors and what were their books about I hear you cry, desperate for me to get on with it so you can go and see if you want to read their books. Well thanks to modern technology I was able to sneakily take some snaps of the authors, which came out rather snazzily like silhouettes that some really amazing photographer would take hours to conjure. Coughs.

First up, as her surname came first, was Emily Bullock whose debut novel The Longest Fight is inspired by her grandfather and is set in 1950s South East London in the gritty and violent world of boxing. Now boxing is probably somewhere not far behind boats and horses in my idea of what I would like in a book, Emily’s reading created a real tension in the room as her protagonist faced the ring and actually hooked in me, right on the chin (see what I did there?)

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Alex Christofi was up next and broke the tension with a very, very funny reading from his debut Glass, which is currently getting a lot of buzz in all the right places as an off-beat comedy about a young man finding his way in the modern world, oh and window cleaning. If the whole book has the sense of humour, which was darkly and ever-so-slightly wrongly funny, we witnessed the whole way through I think it will be right up my street.

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Nicci Cloke was up next to read from her second novel, Lay Me Down. Set in San Francisco, it follows a couple, Jack and Elsa, as they struggle to adjust to the extraordinary demands of Jack’s job on the Golden Gate Bridge. Apparently it is also a tale of suicide. Nicci is one of the Vintage authors and so it was in part thanks to her I was there.

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All rules of alphabetic order were thrown caution to the wind as Rebecca Whitney (who might have had an early train to catch) read from her debut The Liar’s Chair, which sounded right up the alley of Gone Girl fans like myself as it asks: What if the thing you were most afraid of was your husband? Her reading was genuinely creepy, so I need to get my mitts on that.

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Antonia Honeywell was the next person to stand up (next to Ian Ellard who is in all these pictures and gives very good ‘listening’ face, I tend to stare at my shoes or idly pick at fluff on my top when an author is reading when hosting events) and read to us all from her debut novel, The Ship. Yes, you guessed it a book on A BOAT! I have to say though if anyone is going to get me reading a book on a boat in 2015 it will be Antonia. Enough about me, the story… Sixteen year old Lalla’s father has a plan to escape London which has gone into meltdown: he will captain a ship big enough to save five hundred worthy people. But what is the price of salvation?

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Den Patrick was up next and read from The Boy Who Wept Blood which is a follow up to The Boy With the Porcelain Blade. I do not know anyone who has yet to tell me they didn’t like the first so this is a series I need to do some more investigating on. In other news Den Patrick looks very like Matthew Goode out of Hollywood, you can’t tell this from my picture but it is true.

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Peter Swanson was up next with his second novel The Kind Worth Killing. Now by this point I might have had too many sherries or too many Haribo from lovely china cups, I swear that he introduced the book as being about someone who feels his wife should be killed and so does she… yet that doesn’t sound right. Either way he made me want to read it and I have his first novel The Girl With a Clock for a Heart on my shelves already.

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Ruth Ware was the second of Vintage’s authors up and was reading from her thriller In A Dark Dark Wood which is set around a hen weekend which goes horrendously wrong and a secret between some of the women that seemed to have been left in the past, hasn’t. This isn’t out until the summer so we will have to wait with baited breath. Note – I have included a shot of Tom Pollock in the background of the photo below to a) prove he was there b) show you his very good listening face.

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The penultimate reading was from David Whitehouse, whose debut Bed I absolutely loved when it came out and yet never reviewed because I am a tool. His new novel The Mobile Library sounds like it will be just as wonderful, I mean from the title you can tell it will be about bookish adventures and so any book lover wants to read it regardless of whether I tell you more or not. So I won’t. I will say in just a few pages that David read he does humour and heartbreak brilliantly well.

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Last but not least was Shelley Harris, another author whose debut I really liked but didn’t review because I am a loon – though I did share her bookshelves, reading from Vigilante which also sounds right up my street. After stumbling into a vigilante rescue one night, Jenny Pepper decides to become a hero – but with frightening consequences. Now as a lover of superhero’s, and just from Shelley’s prologue, I cannot not read this at some point this year.

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So there you have it, ten authors whose books I would highly recommend you read if you haven’t already. If that wasn’t enough I also got to see lots of lovely faces from the blogging world. Will and I have been meaning to say hello for years, also on my table were my mates Kim, Rob and Kate plus I got to meet SanneNaomi and Jim for the first time as well as the lovely Nina.  Oh and Anna from the We Love This Book. Then there were the aforementioned authors who some of came and said hello, as I was being my usual wallflower like self, as did Stuart Evers who was also in attendance. Plus from the land of publishing the lovely Sam and Francesa from Picador and Drew from Serpent’s Tail. It was quite a first night in London Town. A huge thanks to Vintage Books and especially the lovely host with the most Will for inviting me and looking after me so well!

So have you read any of these authors’ books and if so what did you think? Have you been to Drink Shop Do? Which literary events have you been to and loved?

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Filed under Alex Christofi, Antonia Honeywell, David Whitehouse, Den Patrick, Emily Bullock, Nicci Cloke, Peter Swanson, Random Savidgeness, Rebecca Whitney, Ruth Ware, Shelley Harris

Other People’s Bookshelves #5– Shelley Harris

This week on Other People’s Bookshelves we get to have a nosey through an authors book shelves as we are joined by the lovely Shelley Harris. Shelley was born in South Africa and emigrated to Britain at the age of six. She has been a local journalist, a secondary school teacher, an assistant in a wine shop and a bouncer at teenage discos (no, really). She likes slapstick humour and salted caramels. Her first novel, Jubilee (Weidenfeld and Nicolson – which I have on my shelves) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and picked as a 2012 Richard and Judy Summer Read. So let us have a nosey through her shelves…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I tend to keep all the books I read – except the atrocious ones. Those go straight to Oxfam. My favourites never leave unless by mistake, when I lend them to someone who doesn’t give them back (see also: Behind The Scenes At The Museum, A Christmas Carol).

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

OK, this is a bit complex, but here goes:

Most of my books are upstairs, in the room I write in; three walls are covered in shelves, and most are mine (I allow my husband a measly three shelves – he’s very good about it). One of the walls is for non-fiction, and within that there’s history (chronological), auto/biography (alphabetical by subject) and general non-fiction (autobiographical by author). My fiction used to be alphabetical by author too, but this summer I decided to arrange it by colour, and it’s bee-ootiful. I should admit here that it’s sometimes just the teensiest bit hard to lay my hand on exactly the book I want, but – did I mention it’s bee-ootiful? I’ve also got very un-arranged shelves connected with whatever I’m writing at the moment or want to write next. My To-Be-read pile is downstairs. It’s four shelves big.

I do cull my books from time to time, and it’s a curiously double-edged thing for me. I feel that liberation you always get when you shuck off some of your possessions, but also the anxiety that you might be throwing out something you’ll want next week. That actually happened once; a novel stayed on my shelves for two years unread, so I got rid of it. The next week, someone told me it was brilliant.

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I’ve racked my brains, but I can’t remember. What I do know is that at the age of ten I read two books alternately for months on end – maybe I bought them, I don’t know. They were Antonia Barber’s The Amazing Mr. Blunden, and E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. At some unsentimental moment in my life (stupid early adulthood) I threw them out, but now have replacement copies on my shelves.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

Oooh, now I’m really interested in your Hidden Shelf. I don’t have one; I’m not at all ashamed of anything I take pleasure in, and that includes books which are…what would people scoff at? Stuff that’s considered lowbrow? Erotica? It’s all good.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

That’s a tough one, but I think I might try to save the books my students gave me as gifts when I finished teaching them (they were so relieved, the poor mites). I’m massively proud of having taught, and to have been called ‘a WICKED English teacher’ is one of the best things anyone’s ever said about me.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I remember being transported (as many girls my age were) by Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and read the book soon after the single was released. I was maybe eleven at the time. But my parents were responsible for lots of the books I read – grown-up and not-so. Dad used to quote a lot of Shakespeare and poetry at me, using a voice he thought sounded like Laurence Olivier (it sounded like a Dalek). And my Mom read and loved The Women’s Room and passed it over when I was about seventeen – it was a really important book for me.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

If I love it I tend to want to keep it – some of my Oxfam purchases are novels I’ve borrowed and loved but want for myself. I read Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I on Kindle (very rare for me) and now have the hardback on my shelves.

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What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

A copy of A Christmas Carol which I bought from Oxfam because it’s weirdly disappeared from my shelves. I suspect our resident twelve-year-old reader.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Yes – I want to magic the next Sarah Waters onto my shelves right now.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I don’t mind what they think, but my best guess is that they’ll notice I mainly read contemporary novels, that I love books passionately (I have lots of them), and that they may suspect I’m borderline OCD.

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A big thank you to Shelley for letting me grill her and allowing us to nosey through her shelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Shelley’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Filed under Other People's Bookshelves, Shelley Harris