From the acclaimed author of Ghost Wall, Summerwater is a devastating story told over twenty-four hours in the Scottish highlands, and a searing exploration of our capacity for both kinship and cruelty in these divided times. On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.
A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others.
Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.
I am a fiction addict – there – I’ve said it. I read it voraciously and almost exclusively. I love the look and sound of lots of non-fiction, but I don’t often find the time to squeeze it in before the next novel. If I could find the time – here’s what I would be reading……..
£9.99, paperback. Why do some women still expect men to buy their dinner? What the hell is going on with porn? Comedian Sara Pascoe explores the complex connections between sex, power and money to create a thoughtful and entertaining journey through anatomy and arousal, dating and sex work, animals and technology. In doing so, she makes our most baffling human behaviours less mysterious. ‘An insightful, sensitive study of modern masculinity and sexual economics.’ Observer
£20.00, hardback. Optimism demands action. Optimism is an active choice. Optimism is not naive and it is not impossible. Lily Cole has met with some of the millions of people around the world who are working on solutions to our biggest challenges and are committed to creating a more sustainable and peaceful future for humanity. Exploring issues from fast fashion to fast food and renewable energy to gender equality, and embracing debate, the book features interviews with diverse voices from entrepreneurs Stella McCartney and Elon Musk, to activists Extinction Rebellion co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook and Farhana Yamin, to offer a beacon of possibility in challenging times. Who Cares Wins is a rousing call to action that will leave you feeling hopeful and optimistic that we can make a difference.
£16.99, hardback. For the last three billion years or so, life on Earth was shaped by natural forces. Evolution tended to happen slowly, with species crafted across millennia. Then, a few hundred thousand years ago, along came a bolshie, big-brained, bipedal primate we now call Homo sapiens, and with that, the Earth’s natural history came to an abrupt end. We are now living through the post-natural phase, where humans have become the leading force shaping evolution. This thought-provoking book considers the many ways that we’ve altered the DNA of living things and changed the fate of life on earth. We have carved chihuahuas from wolves and fancy chickens from jungle fowl. Pilcher explores the changing relationship between humans and the natural world, and reveals how, with evidence-based thinking, humans can help life change for the better.
Miss Benson’s Beetle, Rachel Joyce, Hardback, £16.99. It’s 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She’s going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They’ll risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves. This is an intoxicating adventure story, but it also explores what it means to be a woman.
A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, John Boyne, Hardback, £16.99. This is the extraordinary new novel from acclaimed writer John Boyne. Ambitious, far-reaching and mythic, it introduces a group of characters whose lives we will come to know and follow through time and space, until they reach their natural conclusion. It starts with a family, a family which will mutate. For now, it is a father, mother and two sons. One son has his father’s violence in his blood, one lives his mother’s artistry. One leaves. One stays. They’ll be joined by others whose deeds will change their fate. Their stories will intertwine and evolve over the course of two thousand years and they will meet again and again at different times and in different places. From distant Palestine at the dawn of the first millennium to a life amongst the stars in the third. While the world will change around them, their destinies will remain the same. It must play out as foretold.
The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue, Hardback, £16.99. Dublin, 1918. In a country doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, (on the run from the police), and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. An unforgettable and deeply moving story of love and loss, from the bestselling author of The Wonder and Room.
Utopia Avenue, David Mitchell, £20.00, hardback. From the bestselling author of CLOUD ATLAS and THE BONE CLOCKS. Utopia Avenue might be the most curious British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967, folksinger Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss, guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet and jazz drummer Griff Griffin together created a unique sound, with lyrics that captured their turbulent times. The band produced only two albums in two years, yet their musical legacy lives on. This is the story of Utopia Avenue’s brief, blazing journey from Soho clubs and draughty ballrooms to the promised land of America, just when the Summer of Love was receding into something much darker – a multi-faceted tale of dreams, drugs, love, sexuality, madness and grief; of stardom’s wobbly ladder and fame’s Faustian pact; and of the collision between youthful idealism and jaded reality as the Sixties drew to a close. Above all, this bewitching novel celebrates the power of music to connect across divides, define an era and thrill the soul.
Find Them Dead, Peter James, £20.00, hardback. Roy Grace is back to unearth a powerful criminal network. At the end of his secondment to London’s Met Police, he gets a tip-off about a county lines drugs mastermind operating out of Brighton. On his first day back in his old job, he’s called to a seemingly senseless murder. Meanwhile, Meg Magellan finally has her life back together, five years after the car crash that killed her husband and their son. Her daughter, Laura, is on her gap year travelling in South America with a friend, and Meg misses her badly. Laura is all she has in the world. When Meg receives a summons for jury service she’s excited – it might be interesting and a distraction – but when she’s selected for the trial of a major Brighton drugs overlord, everything changes. Roy’s investigation draws him deep into the sinister sphere of influence of the drug dealer on trial. A man utterly ruthless and evil, prepared to order the death of anyone it takes to enable him to walk free.
A couple of big titles out next week.
The Institute, Stephen King, £8.99, paperback – published 23rd July. Luke Ellis, a super-smart twelve-year-old with an exceptional gift, is the latest in a long line of kids abducted and taken to a secret government facility, hidden deep in the forest in Maine. Here, kids with special talents – telekinesis and telepathy – like Luke’s new friends Kalisha, Nick and Iris – are subjected to a series of experiments. There seems to be no hope of escape, until Luke teams up with an even younger boy whose powers of telepathy are off the scale. Meanwhile, far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson, looking for the quiet life, has taken a job working for the local sheriff. He doesn’t know he’s about to take on the biggest case of his career . . .
The Body, Bill Bryson, £9.99, paperback, published 21st July. ‘We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it. The idea of the book is simply to try to understand the extraordinary contraption that is us.’ Bill Bryson sets off to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, it is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up. ‘There really is no story more amazing than the story of us.’ Bill Bryson.
To order any of the books featured here, give us a call or drop us an email. 01729 268180 – firstname.lastname@example.org
As things start moving towards the ‘new normal’, new book publications are back. We think these two will be really popular with our customers.
Robert Harris – The Second Sleep, £8.99, paperback.
The latest book by Robert Harris was chosen as a Book of the Year by The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, and Express.
Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land. It’s a crime to be out after dark, and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed. He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm. What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying.
The EVENING STANDARD said ‘The book’s real power lies in its between-the-lines warning that our embrace of the internet represents some kind of sleepwalk into oblivion.’
Dear NHS: 100 Stories to say Thank You – Edited by Adam Kay (author of This is Going to Hurt), £16.99, hardback.
In Dear NHS, 100 inspirational people come together to share their stories of how the national health service has been there for them, and changed their lives in the process. By turns deeply moving, hilarious, hopeful and impassioned, these stories together become a love letter to the NHS and the 1.4 million people who go above and beyond the call of duty every single day – selflessly, generously, putting others before themselves, never more so than now. They are all heroes, and this book is our way of saying thank you.
Dear NHS features 100 household names telling their personal stories of the health service. Contributors include: Paul McCartney, Emilia Clarke, Peter Kay, Stephen Fry, Dawn French, Sir Trevor McDonald, Graham Norton, Sir Michael Palin, Naomie Harris, Ricky Gervais, Sir David Jason, Dame Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Miranda Hart, Dermot O’Leary, Jamie Oliver, Ed Sheeran, David Tennant, Dame Julie Walters, Emma Watson, Malala Yousafzai and many, many more. All profits from this book will go to NHS Charities Together to fund vital research and projects, and The Lullaby Trust which supports parents bereaved of babies and young children.
One of the questions I get asked most is how much input authors have into the covers that end up on their books. To be honest, it really depends on the publisher as to how much they include the author in the final decision. But I’ve been blessed when it comes to the Dales Detective series.
I remember the day my editor at Pan Macmillan called me to tell me that they’d decided to ask Emily Sutton to come up with a design for the books. Born and bred in North Yorkshire, Emily was an ideal choice. For a start, she has worked extensively with the Yorkshire institution, Bettys Tea Rooms, her drawings on everything from tea caddies to mugs. And when she submitted her first sketch for the series, I knew that she had captured the heart of my fictional community, Bruncliffe.
From the iconic stone walls to the teapot and slice of brack that grace the cover of Date with Death, the prospective reader is pulled straight in and given a taste of what’s to come. But how does Emily get it so right, especially when she’s often working a full twelve months ahead of publication? Sometimes she’s working ahead of the books even being started!
This is how we manage it. Once I start ruminating on the next novel, I jot down ideas, pulling out the main heart of the story and isolating aspects that would work as images. I have to be careful not to include anything that might give the plot away, while still allowing enough of a reveal to be tempting. And also allowing myself enough wriggle room, should I decide to change the storyline!
When I’m happy that I have provided enough content for Emily, I send a short cover brief. And from that she works her magic! Here’s the cover brief I sent for Date with Danger, the latest in the series (don’t worry, no spoilers!):
Book 5: Date with Danger
Plot revolves around sheep rustling, blackmail and gypsies.
Season: Spring – mid-to late April. Blossom on cherry/apple trees, fells turning green, bluebells out, LOTS of lambs
Setting: Auction mart on the edge of Bruncliffe; Bruncliffe; surrounding fells
Sheep rustling – being loaded onto a truck by two men in flat caps…
Gypsies in traditional horse-drawn bow caravans travelling to Appleby horse fair
An isolated barn on the fells which features in blackmail plot
Samson’s Royal Enfield (cf cover Date with Death)
Tolpuddle (cf cover Date with Death for best representation of him)
Bacon butty and a big mug of tea as food – from auction mart cafe!
Not much, is it! And that was written when I’d only just started writing Danger and the plot was still hazy. Yet it was enough for Emily to produce something truly amazing, without her having read a word of the finished novel.
I think the true testament to Emily’s talent lies in the fact that my French publisher, La Bête Noire, kept her designs for the covers of the translated works – an unusual step, as the French have very different tastes when it comes to cover design. But the reaction from French readers has been amazing. Time and time again I get told by fans across the Channel that it was Emily’s artwork that attracted them to the series. Hopefully, it’s my writing that keeps them coming back!
Interestingly, La Bête Noire also made the decision to stick with the original comic-book-style combination of images while here in the UK, Pan Macmillan moved to a single central picture for book 4 onwards, wanting more clarity. This reflects the difference in shopping habits across the two countries, with online book buying far more prevalent here, hence the importance of clarity of image when potential readers are looking at small pictures as opposed to a real book.
While my heart still lies with the original style, I’ve conducted numerous polls with captive audiences at events I’ve been talking at and Pan Macmillan’s decision does seem to be borne out – UK audiences seem to prefer the more traditional cover of the English version. What do you think?
Personally, I think they’re both brilliant and a testament to the power of a good cover. And a gifted cover artist. Because, like they say, every picture tells a story…
To find out more about Emily’s work, visit her Facebook and artist page:
The latest two books, written by me under the name of Gracie Hart, started when I attended the Romantic Novelist’s conference in Leeds eighteen months ago. It was whilst enjoying a glass of a very refreshing gin and tonic when the idea came to me – I must add, it was just the one! Gillian, my publisher at Ebury, just happened to mention how gin had become very popular of late. It was with these words that The Gin Girls started to develop in my mind, and with a new contract dually signed I wrote the first chapter to see if my agent and Gillian thought it was suitable. Now I’d love to share the fruits of my labours with you, with this quick taster of the first book in the two-book deal.
A Mother’s Ruin by Gracie Hart – When 18-year-old Eve runs away from her small village to start a new life in the growing town of Leeds, she quickly discovers it is not everything she expected it to be. Wandering the cold streets in search of shelter, timid Eve can only find work as a barmaid at the Bluebell Inn – a place her strict parents would never approve of.
Serving ale and cheap gin to the rowdy crowd, Eve eventually catches the eye of dashing Sergeant John Oates – but his attentions are not honourable, and he will leave her with more than just a broken heart …
The Gin Palace Girls is due to be published later in the year, and continues the story of Eve and her daughter Mary.
I hope that you enjoy my gritty saga’s set in Leeds. They definitely keep me out of mischief when I’m writing them. Although, I may add that a few gins were drunk, all in keeping with valued research, you understand!
There is a school of literary thought that infers that novels with a happy ending are childish and unsatisfactory. This school of thought feels that by creating a resolution where characters find happiness and satisfaction in a future life together, the story is somehow inferior. (Tell that to Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austin, Maeve Binchy or Jilly Cooper!) In this way the genre of romantic fiction has often been relegated to supermarkets shelves as mere chick lit or beach reads, and worst of all, ‘women’s fiction’. But what’s so wrong with a happy ending?
By ‘happy ending’ I don’t just mean “ Reader I married him”, but an ending where a resolution is offered to the conflicts that characters have endured throughout the story; a real conclusion, and not rushed strategies inserted to sort everything out, (like the mediaeval drama’s Deus ex Machina). These endings must be believable, or risk leaving the reader feeling cheated and unsatisfied, and this can happen in even the most literary of novels. Sometimes the denouement may be open ended or hopeful, allowing us to imagine the future lives of the characters carrying on even after the story ends. This is what I aim for when I am writing.
In these lockdown times, I have turned to some old favourites; novels that are familiar and trusted to give comfort. Many of these have happy or hopeful endings. I’m sure that a lot of us have been doing the same. Some of my choices have been Olivia Manning’s Balkan and Levant Trilogy, TheCazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier, The House of Glass by Hadley Freeman, plus a biography of one my local heroes, Harry Ree, The Schoolmaster’s War, written by his son, Jonathan Ree.
PD James once addressed the annual awards ceremony of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, saying that romantic fiction, in its fullest meaning, contains the stuff of life and death. It deals with the power of attachment and loss, punishment and reward, riches and poverty. All life is there whether set in the past, present, or future.
The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It was founded by Vivian Stuart in 1960. Its members have included, Denise Robbins, Barbara Cartland, Mary Stewart, Catherine Cookson, Joanna Trollope, Rosamunde Pilcher, Wilbur Smith, Jessica Stirling, and latterly, Elizabeth Buchan, Lisa Jewell, Katie Fforde, Jojo Moyes, and Milly Johnson.
In the early days, it was a very glamorous organization with balls at the Connaught Hotel, but now it is the go-to professional association for any budding writer who wants to hone their skills. With over 1000 members, it supports writers across a broad spectrum of commercial and women’s fiction, promoting inclusive values and diversity. There are sponsored awards for genres such as romantic comedy, psychological romantic suspense, fantasy, saga, and historical fiction, alongside contemporary and LGBT novels. Many authors sell millions across the world in translation, and where would some publishing houses be without their success?
The RNA also help their members to link up with other writers through Regional Chapters to cope with the rollercoaster highs and lows of publishing life. Many published writers give their time and expertise voluntarily to support new authors with the acclaimed New Writers Scheme, giving them a leg up on the ladder to success.
I am proud to be to have been a member of the RNA for over 25 years. The annual conference gala to celebrate our anniversary has sadly been cancelled but there will be sessions held online in July. Anyone interested in finding out more can do so here: www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org
Leah Fleming’s new novel ‘A Wedding in the Olive Garden’ is due out in paperback in August 2020.
We now have an answer to this – from Tuesday the 16th of June!!! We’re very excited to be able to open our doors again and show you all of the beautiful books we’ve been hoarding since closing. And we’ve got lots of new stock arriving every day too.
But we also appreciate that this is still a very strange and unsettling time for a lot of people. We’ll be doing our best to make everyone feel safe and comfortable, and in order to do this, we’ll putting a few things in place.
We’re limiting the number of customers in the shop at any one time to 2. We have a small space, and 2 people feels like a sensible and manageable number to us. So when you visit, you may need to queue outside for a little while to gain entry. We hope you understand.
We are asking people to sanitise their hands on entry. Bookshopping means handling books and this is the best way to keep everyone safe. If you can’t use the sanitiser, just ask the bookseller to handle the books for you, or give you information. We’re happy to help.
We’ll be encouraging contactless card payments. This is the safest payment method for everyone. However, we understand that lots of our customers use cash, so we will still take this as a payment method. Rest assured, we will be washing or sanitising our hands after handling cash.
We’ll have limited opening hours in the first instance. This is so we can do lots of other things – clean the shop thoroughly at the end of each day, catch up on email/Facebook orders, deliver to local customers who are still unable to come in, offer private shopping appointments to those who need them. As these things become less necessary, we will look at extending our opening hours.
We know this is a lot of information to take on board, but we’re sure that soon it will become second nature, and everyone will be enjoying their book-loving shopping experience once more. We look forward to seeing you.
Having access to all sorts of exciting new books is right up there – and getting to find out about the new releases coming up. Sometimes it’s really frustrating because I hear about a book and feel desperate to read it, only to find out it’s not published for another 10 months!!!!
In amongst my book delivery today is a book I heard about a long while ago.
‘The See Through House’ is a moving memoir of one man’s distinctive way of looking at the world, told with tenderness and humour and a daughter’s love. It’s also a very funny account of looking after an adored yet maddening parent. Shelley grew up in the Scottish Borders, in this house, designed on a modernist open-plan grid. With colourful glass panels set against a forest of trees, it was like living in a work of art. Her father, Bernat Klein, was a textile designer whose pioneering colours and textures were a major contribution to 1960s and 70s style. As a child, Shelley and her siblings adored both the house and the fashion shows that took place there, but as she grew older, Shelley began to rebel against her father’s excessive design principles. Thirty years on, Shelley moves back home to care for her father, now in his eighties: the house has not changed and neither has his uncompromising vision. As Shelley installs her pots of herbs on the kitchen windowsill, he insists she take them into her bedroom to ensure they don’t ‘spoil the line of the house’.
Being a huge fan of mid-century design, I can’t wait to get stuck in.