Object Lessons in Book Lust

By the time you read this, this could be less of a blog post about book lust and more about the books I have just been and bought because the book lust bug has me under it’s spell. As I type this it is very late on Wednesday night, I should really be in bed sleeping before I get up at 5.30am and get ready to get the train to London for two days of meetings. Instead I am wide awake having spent the last forty minutes or so trying to find out about some books that I am lusting after; Bloomsbury’s new Object Lessons series. They look stunning…


Yes, you know what I mean now don’t you. You can feel your fingers straying to open a new window and google which ones have come out and where you can get them from. I know, because that is what has just happened to me. Having done some digging and visiting their website I am still not sure exactly what they are. I mean, what does this mean? Object Lessons is a series of concise, collectable, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Each book starts from a specific inspiration: an historical event, a literary passage, a personal narrative, a technological innovation-and from that starting point explores the object of the title, gleaning a singular lesson or multiple lessons along the way. Featuring contributions from writers, artists, scholars, journalists, and others, the emphasis throughout is lucid writing, imagination, and brevity. Object Lessons paints a picture of the world around us, and tells the story of how we got here, one object at a time. Does it even matter when the books look so gorgeous?

Of course it does, though having read this review I now want them all, and it looks like there are going to be 20+ of them in total over the next how many months. “The Object Lessons series achieves something very close to magic: the books take ordinary—even banal—objects and animate them with a rich history of invention, political struggle, science, and popular mythology. Filled with fascinating details and conveyed in sharp, accessible prose, the books make the everyday world come to life. Be warned: once you’ve read a few of these, you’ll start walking around your house, picking up random objects, and musing aloud: ‘I wonder what the story is behind this thing?'” Yes that is me sold, so much so that if I see any of these (when I happen to fall into any London bookshops between meetings) I am probably going to have to buy one or two, or three… or four.

What books are you lusting after at the moment? Have you heard of the Object Lessons series? Have you read any of them? Would you be interested in me writing about random books I am lusting after, or would you rather I kept them to myself so it doesn’t become contagious and doom us all?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

The Green Carnation Prize Shortlist 2016

When this news goes live I will be in a  meeting room or restaurant in Soho networking and schmoozing like a demon, ha. So I won’t be able to instantly shout with glee about the shortlist for this years Green Carnation Prize, even though I will be desperate to and have been since the list was decided a week and a bit ago. Anyway here is the official word on it (my unofficial word will follow)…

The six shortlisted titles celebrating LGBT writing have been announced after hours of debates between the judges over an exceptionally strong longlist. Once again with a list including fiction; from debut novelists to well established literary faces, non-fiction; from investigations into the modern drugs world to a memoir of a mother’s illness, from Victorian London to Jamaica, the Green Carnation proves itself as one of the most diverse prizes.


  • Sophie and the Sibyl – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale (Tinder Press)
  • Chasing the Scream – Johann Hari (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James (OneWorld)
  • Mrs Engels – Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
  • Stammered Songbook – Erwin Mortier (Pushkin Press)

Chair of the judges for 2015, author Niven Govinden said of the shortlist “After a lively and robust debate, we’re proud to unveil our shortlist, which we feel represents the best of the best: books that excel and incite passion in the reader.”

Simon Heafield, Marketing Manager for the prize’s partner Foyles said “We’re very proud to play a part in promoting a shortlist of such quality. Indeed, most are books we’ve been actively promoting instore this year so we’re delighted that readers will again be given good reason to investigate them further.”

The Green Carnation Prize is a prize awarded to LGBT writers for any form of the written word, in any genre, including novels in translation. This year sees the second year of the prize’s partnership with Foyles bookshops. The partnership will see Foyles offer event space in their flagship store to host the award ceremony on Tuesday December the 8th 2015, with public events celebrating the prize to follow around the UK in 2016.

For more information please visit: www.greencarnationprize.com or www.foyles.co.uk

Back to me and my unofficial thoughts… I really like the list. Yes, there is a lack of women on the shortlist but as someone who was sat in the meeting watching (with slight glee) the judges having the nightmare of shortlisting, from a cracking longlist, the discussions went past genre, gender, race and was just about which of the final six books resonated and were the best of the best. I have no idea how they are going to choose the winner in a couple of weeks, poor things.

I have read three of them in full (without being a judge, obviously) and half of two of them and can see why it was so tough as they were corkers. I will be sharing my thoughts after the winner is announced at the start of December. In the interim, have you read any of these books and what did you make of them?


Filed under The Green Carnation Prize

Catching Up With Myself and All of You…

Blimey it has been a bonkers week or so. I swore to myself that I would get some more reviews up on the blog last week and this week but it seems I am slightly delusional, or I just think overly hopeful which is much nicer, as with trips to Paris and back, fireworks for over 15,000 people, the installation of the stunning poppies and then Remembrance Sunday and today, the shortlist for the Green Carnation (annouced 2pm on the 12th of November) to sort and administrate, my mothers 50th and another trip to London for a few days of meetings in the morning… I have run out of time. Phew! It does give me a reason to share a picture of the Poppies Weeping Window now housed in Liverpool until mid January again though, this was taken by me on Sunday as over 13,000 poppy petals showered down to remember all those who lost their lives in WWI from Liverpool. Stunning and incredibly moving, do come and see them…


…Anyway, whilst I catch up with myself (and I have Monday off next week so am planning a lovely long weekend at my mother’s partying then coming home and chilling for two days) I thought I would catch up with all of you and ask you how everything was going on and what is going on in your book worlds!

So what is new? To steal from one of my favourite sections on The Readers… What have you read, what are you reading and what are you thinking of reading next? I have read Sophie Hannah’s The Visitors Book,  I am reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (I have literally read about three pages) and am planning on turning to Margaret Atwood’s collection Stone Mattress  next. You?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

For Insiders Only – Joel Dicker

Yesterday I told you all about how DS Automobiles had worked with the author Joel Dicker on creating a special one off story for them and today I get to actually tell you all about it. In keeping with the idea of the whole campaign being about the visual story (which is also the story behind the story if you will) I will also share the first webisode and the first chapter too, before leaving you to go and find more. I feel very digital and thoroughly modern with all this going on. So, to the novella For Insiders Only


It is a normal quiet day on the banks of the river Seine with tourists checking the sites of Paris in it’s autumnal beauty when suddenly there is a commotion. It seems a man has been thrown or pushed into the river, though no one sees how this happened or if anyone was involved. Someone who becomes involved is Inspector Paul Roman of the First Judicial Police Division who is a great believer that it is the little, sometimes slightly quirky, cases that often need the most looking into. When it turns out that the man who ended up in the Seine, Frank Hord, had GHB in system and his colleague, Gut, has gone missing, Roman feels like this might be one of those more unusual cases. His suspicions seem to be correct when he receives a call from a fellow policeman from the edge of the Black Forest, who is working on a case with some similarities.

‘I received a note concerning a citizen of Stuttgart, drugged with GHB and who was the victim of an attempted murder last night,’ Weg said. ‘Is that correct?’
‘Yes, he was thrown in the Seine. He doesn’t remember anything.’
‘I’m wondering if it could be linked to a series of other suspicious deaths that have just occurred here in Stuttgart,’ said Weg. ‘A week ago, four men were found dead, drowned in a lake in the Black Forest. All showed signs of GHB in their blood. I’m the one handling the investigation. I thought they’d drowned, but now I’m wondering if they might have been murdered.’

Because it is a novella, I don’t want to give too much away but what I will say is that as you read on more and more twists and turns follow. There are masked ‘libertine’ festivals, secrets in the forest, questions of hidden sexual desires and much more as Roman, with Weg (which he finds most annoying) in tow, tries to solve the riddle of attempted murder and mass murder and if the two really are connected. I was gripped throughout and loved how such a modern story had such a dark little heart.

As I mentioned above, and indeed yesterday, what is so great (I think) about the campaign around For Insiders Only is that you get to see how each of the five chapters is crafted before you read them. You get to see what is inside the mind of the author, what inspires the incidents that unfolds and what ideas are spawned and never used. You get the story behind the story, press play to see it…

Because I am being so lovely and generous today, and filled with the remnants of all the joie de vivre from my trip to Paris last week, here is a link to the first chapter once you have watched the first webisode above. You can then pop to see the next one (and then all the other instalments ahead when they go live) by following the link here.

So what do you think? Are you a fan of the interactive story? Do you like the fact that you get to see the story behind the story? Should other companies be doing the same thing and giving us stories in new or unusual ways? All thoughts, as always, welcome.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Joel Dicker, Random Savidgeness

Popping to Paris to Meet Joel Dicker

One of the things that I love about doing this book blog is the people I have got to meet and the opportunities that I have got to participate in all because of a love and enthusiasm for books… well and writing about them a lot and having you lovely folk popping by. When I received an email a few weeks ago asking if I would like to go to Paris to meet Joel Dicker and talk about a book he had written for the car company DS, I promptly ignored it as I thought it was either a) meant for someone else b) a joke. However when another email came back less than a week later asking again I thought it really must be meant for me and so I emailed back and suddenly a few weeks later I am flying from Heathrow to Paris in all it’s autumn glory!


The wonder of literature, hey! So what on earth was all this actually about? Well, it turns out that DS (who are a car company formed by a merge of sorts between Peugeot and Citroen) have been looking at ways to get their brand out whilst also doing really different things with other creative types in all sorts of industries. They have been working with a fashion designer, an astrophysicist, and architect and now with a writer, the author Joel Dicker who many of you will know from the huge success that was The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair which came out here in the UK in 2014, to create a one off book and a whole mini series of webisodes around it.


I spoke to Joel about the whole process and interestingly, before any of you cynics start kicking off ha, he said that since the success of his writing (and by success he means millions of copies sold, though is too humble and polite – for he is charming – to say it) he has been made many offers by many different companies and often turns them down because he feels their heart or reasons behind the project might not be in the right place. However when DS approached him he knew fairly quickly that the project was for him because they wanted him to create a story and not just in the normal form. He would get to write the story, but he would also get to write, direct and star in a series of films about the writing process, something which he finds as fascinating as every other reader and lover of stories. Plus when he was younger he wanted to be a commercial/advertising executive, a director and a film star and here he got to do all three… and write a novella, which for an author who likes to write long novels was also a real challenge. Here it is…


I have read it and will talk to you all about it tomorrow. I will say it is set in the Black Forest and Paris, is brimming with murders and is completely gripping. You of course want to know how you can get your hands on a copy (like a wally I completely forgot to get a signed copy for one of you lucky lot, sorry) and the answer is that once the four websiodes have aired, each which give you a hint behind the chapter that you can then read on the DS Writer website here, which is a brilliant site and makes you feel part of the story/show/book. The catch? There is a tiny one, and that is that when the fifth film comes out the only way you can get to read the fifth chapter is by going to a DS showroom and test driving the new DS4, after which you can have a copy of the book and find out the secret of the mystery. Here is the trailer of it all, click and be hooked, I was…

Now before you cynics out there start rolling your eyes, hang fire. I think it is really incredible when big corporations do things with a cultural edge, and not just because they sent me on a trip to Paris, which admittedly was very lovely, but because authors, artists and culture need support both to create and also financially to live. As someone who works in the cultural and arts world, and who has also had lots of dealings with the publishing industry, I know how valuable these sort of relationships can be. After all DS could have simply just created some new generic fancy pants adverts couldn’t they? Instead they have worked with an author to create a story that tells itself on many different levels and gives the story behind the story it’s own space too, and I think that is quite brilliant. I would like to see many more big companies doing the same… Imagine all the stories that we readers would get and all the different ways those stories could be told? So go and have a gander and let me know what you think!

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Poignancy of Poppies

Hopefully you will think this an apt post on Remembrance Sunday. The last week has been a little bit bonkers. Work has taken over with trips to London, then Paris and back in a day, followed by a firework display for 20,000 on Thursday and then on Friday some very, very special arrivals to Liverpool in the form of the poppies from the Tower of London. So work has been bonkers but I couldn’t be prouder than when I turned the corner of St George’s Hall as the last thousand or so were being attached. These will be open and housed at the hall until mid January for free so anyone who wants to see them, and pay their respects or just have a quiet moment, can. I blooming love my job, my team and what we do.  Here is how I first saw them…


I saw the Poppies in London and was incredibly moved by them, so when I knew Liverpool was getting these ceramic beauties which hold so much poignancy I couldn’t quite believe it. While we don’t have all of them, we have the several thousand that make up the Weeping Window, no matter how far away or close to them you are they have a certain magic about them, they make you tingle in a highly emotive way. It’s quite haunting even though it is also mesmerizingly beautiful.


As many of you will know the Tower of London poppies were designed by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper to mark 100 years since the start of World War One, each of the 888,246 poppies placed over a period of time were installed to represent one of the deaths in the British and Colonial forces between 1914 and 1918. We now have the Weeping Window coming from the top of the columns of St Georges Hall (which is huge) where over 30,000 men had signed up to fight for their country by the end of 1914, more than 13,000 of whom lost their lives, so the building holds a real resonance to everything the poppies stand for.


This will be all the more poignant today when we hold the silence at 11am outside the building, as has been done for decades, with hundreds of people to remember everyone that fought for our country and for freedom before hundred of poppies are released from the roof. A fitting tribute.


For more info on the Poppies and the incredible programme around them head here. Don’t forget to pay your respects and hold the silence at 11am to remember all the incredible people from wars past to present who have fought, and are fighting, for freedom and a world free from tyranny in favour of hope, freedom and peace. We must not forget.


Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Grownup – Gillian Flynn

Those of you who have been following the blog for sometime will know that I was one of the many, many people who were completely gripped and somewhat infatuated with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I liked its spikiness, I liked its darkness and I loved the extremely unlikeable and manipulative hearts of its characters. I like to read a nasty book occasionally, one that exorcises all those thoughts we don’t like to admit to in the safety of our own brains/homes. So naturally I was very excited to learn that a new novella from Gillian, The Grownup, was out – whilst also being rather shocked at how long ago I read Gone Girl and how long I have left Dark Places and Sharp Objects – and so the other night I sat and gobbled it up in a single sitting. Be warned, this post contains adult themes, very ‘grownup’ ones if you will.


Orion Books, 2015, paperback, fiction, 79 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.

So starts the tale of our nameless narrator in Gillian Flynn’s novella The Grownup, which started life as the short story What Do You Do? in an anthology for George R. R. Martin. Many of us have often had to make a career change, be it for better prospects, getting away from an awful boss who you hated and wished the ground would swallow up or because your circumstances or skill sets have changed. For our protagonist she has recently had to change jobs for health reasons, so good and skilled is she at giving men hand jobs she has only gone and got carpal tunnel syndrome.

However, whilst her employers don’t have a good occupational health assessment or system, they do have a have a facade out front that hides the secret deeds out front as the shop frontage is that of a fortune teller and psychic. So rather than be penniless she turns her hand (as it were) to reading peoples body languages in a different way and telling them their futures, or in some cases simply what they want to hear. One day Susan Burke turns up, a woman new to the city who has moved into a house with her husband, step son and son, yet the house it seems doesn’t want them there and is seemingly channelling its energy through one of the members of the family. Initially our heroine (of sorts) doesn’t believe her, until she goes to the house itself.

It lurked. It was the only remaining Victorian house in a long row of boxy new construction, and maybe that’s why it seemed alive, calculating…

I really, really enjoyed The Grownup. From the off I was initially dragged in by the fact that it is a bit saucy and rude which we all like from time to time. As it goes on though the depths and layers of the story grab you all the more. Within the matter of a few pages, as with Gone Girl, you are instantly drawn into the world of someone you aren’t sure if you really like or really don’t. What you do very quickly know is that either way you want to know how this person’s story will unfold and enjoy guessing (often wrongly) as to what the outcome will be along the way. I think Flynn’s ability to get into these complex and multi-faceted characters, good or bad, was superb in Gone Girl. I think the fact she does it in mere pages here is marvellous and she should be given a huge amount of credit for that and not just her twisting plots, especially as this is all done in less than 80 pages from start to finish.

The other thing I really like about Gillian Flynn’s writing is her sense of humour and her snarkiness. I am quite a fan of snark, if it is handled correctly and people know you’re being snarky and not just a bit of an arsehole, for there is a thin line. I think Flynn has a way of giving that wry dark humour and wit that treads the path very finely and made me giggle, sometimes inappropriately, as I read on. I also loved the fact that The Grownup is also a story about stories and some of those brilliant stories that walk the line between supernatural thriller and suspenseful mystery.

The only thing I really knew about Mike was he loved books. He recommended books with the fervour I’ve always craved as an aspiring nerd: with urgency and camaraderie. You have to read this! Pretty soon we have our own private (occasionally sticky) book club. He was big into “Classic Stories of the Supernatural” and he wanted me to be too (“You are a psychic after all,” he said with a smile). So that way we discussed the themes of loneliness and need in The Haunting of Hill House, he came, I sani-wiped myself and grabbed his loaner for next time: The Woman in White. (“You have to read this! It’s one of the all-time best.”)

What makes The Grownup so wonderfully twisty, as I was hoping it would be, is not just the brilliant and rather warped plot but also the fact that this story often sits in that no man’s land between supernatural thriller and amateur sleuthing. In parts you are wondering if this is a ghost story, at other moments you feel like this could be the tale of a murderous blood bath waiting to happen. What you get might end up being neither, it could be something much trickier and darker. I don’t want to give anything away so I will stop right there thank you very much.

I will simply end by saying that if you like a book with a gothic sensibility, a hint of the supernatural, a murderous intent and a questionable narrator at its heart then you need to grab a copy of this. The Grownup is a perfect short burst of escapism pitch perfect for the darker nights as they draw in. I really, really enjoyed it.


Filed under Gillian Flynn, Orion Publishing, Review, Weidenfeld & Nicolson