Blogmas: Bookish Stocking Fillers

If you’re looking for a unique gift this year for a book lover in your life but don’t want to splurge the cash, or are unsure about what books your bookish friend has/ hasn’t read, here are some stocking filler ideas – all for less than a tenner!

Reading Journal – Literary Emporium, £4.50

Journal

A stylish A5 reading journal to record your thoughts on your recent reads. A perfect gift for book lovers and avid readers – even if they prefer to use Good Reads, this is a really cute little pad for them to jot down thoughts and ideas about each book their reading.

Penguin Books Tea Towel – Penguin, £8.99

Teatowel

This tea towel would make a lovely gift for a book lover who is also a keen cook. Also, I’ve got friends who don’t have much storage space for books as they live in small flats so this makes a great space saving, book-themed gift. They have a few different designs on the Penguin shop, including some vintage alphabet icons.

The Book Was Better Pin – Punkypins, Etsy, £7.00

bookbetter

Now, how often do you hear book lovers utter these words. As soon as I saw this little enamel pin it made me smile. This teeny pin would lovely on a backpack or jacket and proudly shows that you’re a book lover, without being too in your face. Even better, it is from a small business and was hand designed in the UK.

Book Lover’s Cup of Tea Infuser, The Book Depository – £5.99

BooksTea

Most book lovers I know love curling up with a good book, in cosy clothes and a cup of tea in hand. This gift marries tea and reading – The Book Lover’s Cup of Tea is a book-shaped tea infuser (titled A Tale of Two Ci-Teas) that offers two ways to brew: Dunk the entire book into your cup, or let the cover rest on the rim of your tea cup and hang the tea-filled pages into your hot water to steep. A gift which gives the perfect cosy reading experience.

Map of Fictional London – The Literary Gift Company, £5.99

literary london

I absolutely love this one – it is a navigable map of London featuring streets, parks, gardens, prisons, hospitals, rivers etc. as mentioned in over 600 novels, plays and poems. It features places from over 400 different authors’ work, including including Angela Carter, Agatha Christie, Neil Gaiman, Shirley Conran, Douglas Adams, Charles Dickens, Lee Child, Iris Murdoch, Geoff Ryman and many many more. This gift is also available as a poster – if you know the recipient well, you could always frame it for their house, or plan a special walking trip around London visiting places from their favourite reads.

Reading This, Bookmark Pad – Waterstones, £3.95

Bookmark

This is similar to the journal, but in a bookmark form – this is a pad of bookmarks, which you can keep notes on. I think this is a perfect gift for someone who has a blog, or regularly attends bookclub as there is a little section for ideas to discuss and conversations to strike up. You can’t write loads on it, but it’s good to jot down small notes as you’re reading.

I’ll be posting a few other gift guides during Blogmas including the best bookish gifts under £25 and special books to buy.

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Blogmas: London Indie Bookshops

I love visiting bookshops – large and small – inevitably splurging whenever I’m in one. Near me, there’s only one independent bookshop, the wonderful Chicken and Frog – sadly it only stocks children’s books, which means I tend to end up in my local Waterstones more often than not. If I’m visiting London I try to (browse) and shop a little more consciously by supporting and visiting independent bookshops where possible.

Today, here are my top five to visit when you’re in the capital.

Persephone Books
59 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB

Persephone Persephone2

I love the premise behind Persephone Books; it is both a publisher and a bookshop. Persephone reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. All of its 125 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are beautifully published, which is also reflected in how the shop is laid out – the majority of the books have simple grey front covers, with decorative, colourful end papers. Each book has a bookmark that matches the inside front/ back cover of the book.

Daunt Books
84 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, London W1U 4QW

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Daunt Books is a chain of independent bookstores in London. The one I’m giving a shout out to today is the Marylebone shop,  which specialises in travel literature and is split by country, which I find fascinating – from stunning travel memoirs about expeditions to exotic fiction based in far away places. The premises is beautiful, as you can see in the picture above – it was originally built for antiquarian booksellers Francis Edwards in 1910. Daunt Books in Marylebone is such a treat to visit, particularly if you’re a keen and inquisitive traveller who is curious about the world we live in.

Word on the Water
Regents Canal – just around the corner from the British Library

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Photo: Andrew Testa for The New York Times

One of the most unique book shops I’ve ever visited, Word on the Water is a floating bookshop; a bookshop on a boat. The store is a 50ft, 1920s Dutch barge, which has been lovingly transformed to house shelves of books to buy. The guys that own Word on the Water are so friendly and are always more than happy to engage in a good bookish conversation.

Goldsboro Books
23-27 Cecil Ct, London WC2N 4EZ

Goldsboro

Goldsboro Books is the place to go if you’re looking for special book – Goldsboro specialises in signed first edition books. As with all of the bookshops on the list, the booksellers are so knowledgable and happy to answer questions and recommend a read, or two. The guys behind Goldsboro Books have created the UK’s largest first edition Book of the Month Club which enables book lovers to start collecting books which they believe will be a joy to read and also books which are worth collecting for the future.

Skoob Books
66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AE

Skoob

Skoob Books is literally packed to the rafters with over 55,000 different second-hand / pre-owned books, 5,000 of these are replaced every month so there’s always something new to discover. There is something special about Skoob, it feels almost magical as the shelves are crammed tightly, almost toppling over, with different volumes of much loved books. This is always a great place to go if you’re looking for a special edition, or specific cover – you might just be lucky enough to find it!

#Blogmas #Christmas

Blogmas: December TBR

December is going to be a busy month for me, we’re finishing off our house and hoping to be in by Christmas (bit of a long shot…) so it’ll be full of work, DIY and decorating. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for reading, apart from over the break between Christmas and New Year, so my December reading list is pretty short, sweet, light-hearted and Christmas themed.

Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva  

MrDickens

Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept…

Christmas With You by Sheila O’Flanagan 

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Tucked away in the Irish countryside, the Sugar Loaf Lodge is opening its door for the festive season. With snow falling on the mountains outside and warm fires roaring inside, it’s the perfect place for guests to celebrate the happiest time of the year. But what if you’ve just had your heart broken? Or discovered that the man you’re married to has lied to you? What if a secret from your past has finally come back to haunt you?

For some of the guests arriving at the Sugar Loaf Lodge, Christmas is looking far from tranquil. But can they find the magic and romance of the season within the walls of this beautiful hotel?

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak 

SevenDays

It’s Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years.

Emma is elated at having everybody under one roof, but her oldest child, Olivia, is only home because she has nowhere else to go. She’s just returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must stay in quarantine for a week – and so, too should her family.

For the next seven days, no one can leave the house and no one can enter.

It doesn’t sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they’re all harbouring secrets.

One of whom is about to come knocking at their door…

An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe 

AlmostPerfect

“My mother is not a foodie. But for as long as I can remember, once a year, she becomes possessed of a profound and desperate need to serve up a perfect roast turkey. Faced with a walk into the village though, she might think ‘oh, f*** it’ and decide to get a frozen one from Bejams on the 23rd and leave it to defrost in the downstairs toilet for not quite 48 hours.”

From perennially dry turkeys to Christmas pudding fires, from the round robin code of conduct to the risks and rewards of re-gifting, An Almost Perfect Christmas is an ode to the joy and insanity of the most wonderful time of the year.

What will you be reading over the Christmas period?

Blogmas: November Reads

During November I stuck to Non-Fiction November, reading no fiction whatsoever, however I didn’t get round to all the books I’d planned for the month (as is always the case…). I ended up doing all of my reading in the first half of the month and then got distracted by freelance work, DIY and decorating…whoops.

Last month I read:

Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth – 4/5

CallMidwife

I picked this one up on holiday earlier this year – in the hotel we were staying, they had a library where you could swap books or just take books that had been left. I wouldn’t have picked this up if I’d have been paying, but I’m so glad I did as it was a really enjoyable, quick and easy read. As you might have guessed, it’s the book that the TV series of the same name – Call The Midwife – is based. Jennifer’s voice is candid, she’s a great storyteller, and whilst it is gory in places it’s a great study into 1950s London and how midwifery and medicine has changed over the years.

The Gender Games: The problem with men and women, from someone who has been both by Juno Dawson – 4/5 

GenderGames

The Gender Games is part memoir and part social study on gender; it explores what it is to be a transgender woman in the 21st Century. It really opened my eyes and answered questions I didn’t know I had; it wasn’t patronising or forceful, but rather it laid out facts, arguments and discussions in an intelligent, unique and insightful way. I listened to the audiobook of this one and it was informal, chatty and funny – Juno is such a great narrator.

Astrophysics for people in a hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – 3/5 

Astrophysics

This short book packs a punch and does exactly what it says on the tin. deGrasse Tyson answers questions we’ve always wanted to know the answer to: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Whilst this is super interesting, I felt it was very similar to the series Cosmos on Netflix, which I had just finished watching. I took quite a lot from this book, but even some of the simplest of concepts went over my head…however, that says more about my scientific ability rather than deGrasse Tyson’s explanations.

Little Black Book: A toolkit for working women by Otegha Uwagba – 3/5

LittleBlackBook

I was sent this one as part of the Ninja Book Swap – it is a modern career guide for women, giving advice on how to build a successful self-made career. Now, this is nothing groundbreaking, but it is a great little book to dip in and out of for tips and hints to keep you on the right path. I liked that it had lots of resources at the back of the book to continue your reading.

For the rest of December I’ll be taking part in Blogmas. I’m hoping to post every day in the lead up to Christmas, but if all else fails I’ll post every other day.

Blog Tour: Know Me Now by C.J. Carver (Bonnier Zaffre)

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Know Me Now (The Dan Forrester series, #3) by C.J. Carver. Today, I’ve got an extract of the book for you – hopefully it will entice you to pick it up, when it is released in later this year by Bonnier Zaffre (ebook is available 14 December and the paperback is published 11 January 2018).

About the book 

Know Me Now_Cover

A SUICIDE. A MURDER. A CONSPIRACY. 
DIGGING UP THE PAST CAN BE DEADLY . . .

A thirteen-year-old boy commits suicide.

A sixty-five-year old man dies of a heart attack.

Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 officer, is connected to them both.

And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers.

But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret.

A secret someone will do anything to keep buried . . .

About C.J. Carver

Carver, Caroline 3

C.J. Carver’s first novel Blood Junction won the CWA Debut Dagger and was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best mystery books of the year. Half-English, half New Zealand, C.J. has been a travel writer and long-distance rally driver, driving London to Saigon and London to Cape Town. Her novels have been published in the UK and the USA and translated into several languages.

And, as promised, here’s an extract of Know Me Now – enjoy: 

Lucy sipped her beer slowly. Continued to talk to the two men. Watched Murray as he ordered and drank two more whiskies. Finally, he said, ‘Bugger it. They’re not fucking turning up.’ And left.

Making her apologies, Lucy put her glass on the table and hurried after him. She caught him up just as he beeped open his car, a tatty old Rover, and he turned, surprised.

‘Firecat,’ she said.

He stared at her. ‘What?’

‘You’re Firecat.’

‘What the fuck is this?’

‘You’re supposed to be meeting someone else but they can’t make it. I’m here in their stead.’

He took a step back. ‘Why can’t he make it?’

‘He didn’t say. But he told me that meeting you was incredibly important, that he didn’t want to miss it, and that I had to be here instead.’

‘Fucksake.’ He ran a hand over his face. ‘I’ve got a fucking story to tell that’s worth a fortune and he sends me a pint-sized fucking emissary instead.’

‘What story?’

His eyes turned cunning. ‘Give me the fifty grand and I’ll tell you.’

‘I don’t know anything about fifty grand,’ she said carefully.

‘Why am I not surprised?’ He flung up his hands. ‘What a waste of a fucking journey.’

‘Hey,’ she said, putting out a hand. ‘Wait a moment –’

He slapped her hand away. ‘Fuck off. Get the big man to meet me himself next time, OK?’

The temptation to whip out her warrant card and scare the crap out of him for drink driving nearly crippled her. She forced herself to take several deep breaths to steady herself as she watched him climb into his shitty heap of a car. He gave her the finger as he left. Unbelievable. What a misogynistic shitbag.

The second he was out of view, she pelted for her Corsa, wishing she’d parked closer, wanting to follow him, but as she tore around the rear of her car a dark shape suddenly reared up out of the dark and wrapped its arms around her. A man. He wore gloves and a balaclava.

She opened her mouth to shout, scream for help, but there was no time.

The man slammed his forehead straight into her face.

She felt her nose break as the world exploded into white light. Her limbs went numb. Warm liquid poured down her face and chin. Choking she tried to call out but he leaned forward and punched her hard in the stomach. All the air rushed out of her lungs.

Disabled, gasping for breath, she was helpless when he grabbed her hands and yanked them behind her back. She tried to fight but she had no breath and her efforts were pitiful against his brute strength. He dragged her to a car. When she saw its boot was open panic flooded her, giving her a surge of strength. She gave a violent buck and felt his grip slip but then something slammed into the side of her head. This time there was no white light. Just black.

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here: 

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October Reads

I’ve had a pretty lacklustre month for reading – I finished four books ranging the whole way from 2 to 4 stars. A couple of good’uns but nothing mind-blowingly amazing. Here’s hoping I have a better month of reading in November.

Look for Her by Emily Wilmslow (Allison & Busby) – 3/5
The memory of Annalise Wood has haunted the town of Lilling near Cambridge for decades. She went missing in 1976 and although her body was later found, the investigation went cold with no one held responsible. The grief and speculation surrounding her disappearance are engrained in the community. Forty years on, another young woman stokes her obsession with Annalise, believing that sharing a name with the dead girl has forged a bond between them. 

I found this one a little clumsy and confusing – I got lost in places and mixed up the characters’ names on a couple of occasions. For a crime novel it has a fairly slow pace and although it ramped up a bit towards the end I just didn’t feel gripped or invested in the characters.

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir – 4/5

If you’re looking for a quick but compelling crime read, full of complex characters then check this one out (and read it before the movie comes out). My full post for the blog tour is here.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood (Vintage) – 4/5

Disturbing, thought provoking and dystopian; this was my first foray in to the world of Margaret Attwood, which has definitely compelled me to want to pick up more. It probably took me about a quarter of the book to get into it and vaguely understand what was going on, but it was a story like nothing I’ve ever read before. Even though it was first published almost thirty years ago, it reads as modern, contemporary fiction that could have been written yesterday.

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray Publishers) – 2/5

I was expecting so much from this book, countless friends had recommended this to me as one of their books of the year, but I just couldn’t get in to it. I found it far too slow and dull, uninspiring and clunky. I know many people absolutely rave about The Loney, so perhaps it was just a case of wrong book at the wrong time. Sadly only 2 stars from me.

I’ll be doing Non-Fiction November this month – I’m not sure whether I’ll exclusively read Non-Fiction, or just aim to read more than I have been. I’m looking forward to some inspiring reads over the next month.

Blog Tour: Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (Orenda Books)

Hello and welcome to another blog tour! Today I’m taking part in the tour for Snare by Icelandic author Lilja Sigurdardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates). Thank you to Orenda Books for sending me an advanced copy and to Anne Cater for setting up the tour.

About the book:

SnareCover

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books

My thoughts:

I love Iceland as a location for crime novels, so I was already excited about this one before I picked it up. The novel focuses on the drug trade in the country, as Sonia is caught up in smuggling drugs to make end meets as a single Mother. Told in short chapters the story has multiple narrators, changing perspective frequently, which is something I absolutely love – it keeps me hooked, interested and invested in a story.

I really enjoyed the different characters in Snare, from Sonia’s strength and straightforward thinking, to Bragi, the Customs Officer’s, warmth. For such a short book it certainly packs a punch – it’s fast-paced, concise and engaging from the first page. Full of tension and threat – particularly when Sonia travels through customs with a stash of drugs on her – Sigurdardóttir’s writing makes us look at what sacrifices we would make for family as well as questioning if we ever truly know the people we love. It shows us how ordinary people act differently when thrown into extraordinary circumstances in life.

The film rights have been bought for it and I can’t wait to see the creative treatment it receives. If you’re looking for a quick but compelling crime read, full of complex characters then check this one out (and read it before the movie comes out). I can’t wait to see what’s next in the series.

Verdict: 4/5

About Lilja:

Lilja Sigurðard.

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

You can catch the other posts on the blog tour here:

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I was very kindly sent an advanced copy of Snare in exchange for an honest, fair and unbiased review. Thank you Orenda Books.