Why we love #BAMB and #SuperThursday

When you go inside a bookstore to buy a book on Super Thursday, in fact on any day, there is so much choice. This is the most fun type of adventure you will ever have however as buying a book is buying into an adventure. Who will you meet and where will you go?

Waterstones  for example has several signs to help you navigate the many literary roads to reading. This sign gets you in the door if you weren’t in there already….

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That’s me struggling with the brolly waiting to get in the bus – then late sitting upstairs looking all cosy with a good book.

I turn left into the haven of book gifts, mugs, puzzles, calendars and all other book things you can imagine. I got stopped here though –

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Bbrr I thought what would warm me up? Ooh there’s quite a few here. Well it will be getting very very cold soon so I should stock up shouldn’t I? Not that I need any excuse but it’s nice that Waterstones helps out like this

Oh but I still want to travel when I’m sitting by the fire. Literary travel is the only way to go and quite honestly when the weather is rotten, it’s the best –

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These are the only kind of signs I like. the hottest genre in town you say? Well I do need warming up so best get the latest Stieg Larsson….

Then I bought this – I have read it and still own a rather battered copy but this was 3D! 3D glasses on the inside to see the cover in all its glory! Well, I just had to have this!

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Off to read them all now…..

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Well that turned out to be a rather #Superthursday if ever there was one. And it’s not over yet? Now where’s the next bookshop……..

#DesertIslandreads – #BooksareMyBag

This week sees the start of Books are My Bag week in which books and bookshops are celebrated in style. Guest authors, book giveaways and book chat and that’s just on the booktrail! Head over to @booksaremybag and it’s a true festival of everything we love about bookshops – their importance to the community and the fact that you can lose yourself in one for hours and discover a new place to travel to every time you pick up a book.

We’re taking part this week in the #desertislandreads campaign to share books you would take on a desert island – but being the booktrail we’ve added books set on an island. There are so many great ones out there and we would love to find out yours. So here’s the first two –

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Books to read on an island

Time to relax and unwind with your toes in the sand and the wind in your hair on a tropical island somewhere. Like somewhere near Sri Lanka perhaps?

Set in Sri Lanka – The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Tea planter

19 year old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married and soon follows her husband to his tea plantation in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). However life there in this hot and humid country is not at all what she expected  – her husband seems like a completely different man, the neighbours are strange and the plantation workers are resentful.There is tension in the air as well as the sound of birds and the whistling of the wind.

Gwen finds herself alone and so soon starts to explore. What she finds are clues to the past – her husbands past and just what is that overgrown gravestone in the grounds?

You will want to be on a desert island when you read this book! Dinah Jefferies really knows how to transport a reader to the places she writes about. It’s visually stunning and immerses you with every one of your senses. Lush!

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/ceylon-asia-the-tea-planters-wife-dinah-jefferies/

Books set on an island

Now if you really want to read on location and read about a real life island survival story then this is recommended since survival is the theme and strength the overall emotion…

Set in The South Atlantic  – How to be Brave by Louise Beech

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People linked by the power of a story. Natalie has to do what she can to help her young daughter Rose come to  terms with her illness so she starts by sharing the story of Natalie’s grandfather Colin.  He was once adrift on a lifeboat in the middle of an ocean and had to fight for survival. This is the story of bravery in ever sense of the word.

Take tissues with you when  you read this as despite being transported to an island, you will feel the challenges and the fight to survival as well as the heartbreaking emotional tug of the book. Despite the water all around you, you will create a sea with your own tears!

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/middle-of-the-south-atlantic-ocean-how-to-be-brave-louise-beech/

Leave a comment about your favourite desert island read here or via facebook and you can win a desert island package!   https://www.facebook.com/thebooktrail

Forum Books, Corbridge IBW14

Celebrating Independent Booksellers week has taught me many things

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We have some wonderful booksellers up and down the country whose main passion in life is to ensure each and every one of us finds our perfect read

There is nothing quite like walking into an indie bookstore and taking in a deep book breath 

They promote author events, authors, books and all book related things

We need more of them

At a time where there are bookshops and libraries closing down all too often, it was a joy to hear of Forum Books in Corbridge/Northumberland and the opening of their new children’s bookstore.

The week in celebration at Forum Books
The week in celebration at the main Forum Books

We’ve had lovely Helen Stanton over for tea and cake – our mission to celebrate and say thank you to these wonderful people. Well, we travelled up to Corbridge as well we wanted to visit this lovely little gem in Northumberland – Mari Hannah land you might say since local author Mari Hannah has set a few scenes around these parts (most notably the church opposite this very bookshop in Murder Wall’s opening scenes)

Hi Helen

Now, even if I say so myself, I’ve made rather an ambitious cake for us to enjoy – in keeping with the independent booksellers week, I’ve done an independent design. Plus in homage to your wonderful shop I’ve made the cake in the shape of a fort, a roman fort of course as well we are in the heart of Northumberland and I believe Forum means ‘a public square or marketplace’?

Ta dah!

The Fort Cake
The Fort Cake

Now would you like a tower or the drawbridge to start with?

There you go

Oh tea! How lovely….

think we'll sit here on the special IBW themed sofa!
think we’ll sit here on the special IBW themed sofa!

So, Helen, what do you love about working for Forum?

Have always dreamt of running my own bookshop – the exciting new books coming out, the trusted favourites that never fade, the conversations about books..hard work but never feels like work…if that makes sense

Why is IBW important to you?

It’s great to have an opportunity to make a fuss of what we do all year round

 

The Gruffalo came to Corbridge!
The Gruffalo came to Corbridge!

Tell us about your new children’s bookstore!

Our new bookshop Forum Books Kids was opened a few weeks ago by the Gruffalo and its very exciting to have made a space for children to come and discover books for themselves. We’ve a toy till on the counter ( a lowered easy to reach section!) and a reading den. And a garden to grow into next Spring with any luck. We’re planning regular story times, events and other fun stuff! Watch out!

A new oasis of book loviliness
A new oasis of book loveliness 

What has been your favourite author event at your store?

Miss Hannah Kent - of Burial Rites. The evening she came here - we ate, we drank and we chatted books! FAB novel set in Iceland - perfect for booktrails!
Miss Hannah Kent – of Burial Rites. The evening she came here – we ate, we drank and we chatted books! FAB novel set in Iceland – perfect for booktrails!

Ooh thats tricky…this year I loved Hannah Kent as I was so taken with Burial Rites, but then Tim Winton was special too. And I have a lot of fun with cookery / foodie events – Sabrina Ghayour & Diana Henry were both so lovely, great company & delicious..

Who is coming soon?

Our next is David Bez & Salad Love – with a demo! Another first! A great book of 260 salads – one for every working day – inspirational & practical. July 17th.

Emma Chapman is stopping off as part of her amazing Indie Book Crawl & we’re having a Sunday tea time event with Lucie Whitehouse – cucumber sandwiches & cake! I’m very excited to have got both authors together as they both start with seemingly lovely, working marriages but by the end of each first chapter this fractures & each take us on very uneasy, suspenseful page turning journeys! July 20th

Aah the Miniaturist herself is coming to Forum books! Squeal!!!!
Aah the Miniaturist herself is coming to Forum books! Squeal!!!!

 

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – she’ll be here August 20th – and completely hooked! A gorgeous read!

Which fictional character would you like to meet?

The first that pops into my head would be fifteen year old Charley Thompson from Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin – that kid! And Willy Vlautin’s books always resonate with a truth. So wanted to reach out and grab Charley…

Ah Helen it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you about books. You’re like a book therapist – people should come and see you when they need a book to cheer themselves up and need to talk books to someone who knows.

I feel calm and ready for my next read.

Would you like another window or maybe a part of the battlements? (Back to the cake obviously)

Helen takes the battlements and the shield and sword hanging above it – that’s the sign of a good bookseller through and through – a fighter when the going gets tough even when it comes to cake. Goes straight for the symbols of weapons and protection – Independent booksellers are here to stay!

Cuppa and a cake at Cogito

This booktrail bookshop is coming to an end – one more on the list this week.Oh How I wish I had more to visit….well of course there are loads across the country on my list but for now I’m in sunny Northumberland!

Aah Cogito books - i'm here for a cuppa and a cake today!
Aah Cogito books – i’m here for a cuppa and a cake today!

But before the booktrailer heads home to Booktrail towers to prepare for the next mammoth booktrail (the next one is set in 1950s Malaya), we headed for a nice relaxing Cuppa and a cake with a lovely lady named Claire who owns a beautiful bookshop – Cogito books in Hexham

Now I was on a mission here for Cogito already run a tea and cake offering whereby  you can book a session – rather like that of a personal book advisor – to learn about new literature and what suits you as a reader. All this with tea and cake! Well, Claire deserves a little of her own medicine we thought so…..

Welcome to Cuppa and a Cake Claire!

Hiya 

the perfect spot in Cogito for Cuppa and a Cake
the perfect spot in Cogito for Cuppa and a Cake

Wow what a gorgeous shop! Where should we have our Cuppa and a cake? I’ve brought fresh cream eclairs and two butterfly cakes. Ooh what’s that? Victoria Sponge? Well how do you know that’s one of my favourites!

What do you love about working for Cogito?

I love people and I love books and bookselling is about connecting the two.  It is just brilliant when you introduce someone to a book that they really enjoy or help someone find exactly what it is they are looking for.  I think what independent bookselling offers is the flexibility to offer a better service to customers, to tailor that service to customers as individuals, to be creative and working in Cogito Books is always interesting and you never know what each day will bring!

 

The booktrailer did not fall asleep in this chair....no I did not.....certainly not whilst dreaming of a book I'd been reading..
The booktrailer did not fall asleep in this chair….no I did not…..certainly not whilst dreaming of a book I’d been reading..

Where does the name come from?

The name Cogito comes from the French philosopher Descartes’s  Cogito Ergo Sum which means  ‘I think therefore I am’ .

-Ooh I didn’t know that. That’s interesting. Now then, as we’re sitting here scoffing on victoria sponge and cream eclairs, I’d like to find out a little bit about your book recommendation service…

 The Cogito Reading Treat is our personal book consultation.  Over tea and homemade biscuits we talk about the books people have loved and their interests and from this we suggest a bespoke selection of 6 books that will hopefully become new favourites for them.  It is the perfect gift for a bibliophile or even for oneself!  We have had a great response to the Reading Treat with many people delighted that it has helped them discover new authors they might not otherwise have found.

Cuppa and a cake in a bookshop! I think I might move in here...
Cuppa and a cake in a bookshop! I think I might move in here…

-I would love that! Thinks about booking that for a fellow booktrailer later in the year….

 

You have a lovely sofa in your store – have you ever found someone asleep on it?

I have never found anyone asleep on the sofa, but I had a customer at closing time on a Saturday  say that he’d been more than happy to be left locked in the bookshop and would be completely fulfilled spending time reading until I opened up again on Monday morning!

 

the Children's corner
the Children’s corner

I love your children’s section. What’s the funniest thing that a child in your store has said or done?

We’re so pleased that the children find our children’s area and selection of books so inviting and lots of our younger customers are really enthusiastic about reading which is very encouraging.  We’re always trying to find the books that will spark that enthusiasm for everyone, adults and children alike. 

I think the funniest thing a child has said was a little girl who was telling my dad about her book request letter to Father Christmas. My dad asked if she had sent her letter up the chimney,  she looked at him as though he had absolutely lost the plot and knew nothing, declaring “no… I emailed him”.  Everyone in the shop burst out laughing. 

 

What has been your favourite author event at your store?

We have hosted lots of events over the 13 years that we have been bookselling and we have met so many lovely authors who have been incredibly supportive to Cogito Books.  It is really difficult to choose a favourite event, but some highlights would definitely include Alexander McCall Smith, Jonny Wilkinson, Piers Torday and also events such as magical Harry Potter parties at midnight. Cake is often a feature of our events and I have a lovely comment in an Anne Fine novel saying how much she enjoyed my scones!  

IBW2014
IBW2014 display at Cogito

Why should people support IBW14?

IBW14 is representative of what independent bookshops throughout the country do week in week out – introducing people to good books!  Whether it be through events, conversations, recommendations, or an interesting display in an inspiring shop.  It is a week celebrating the passion of independent booksellers who in their own ways create unique discoveries of books. Time spent reading is so precious that it is important that the book you’re reading is a really good one and this is where independent booksellers come into their own… the enjoyable discovery of excellent books!

 

Ah thanks Claire, right enough questions – time to polish off these eclairs. I’ll put these books down, can’t risk getting cream on them, I’d never forgive myself.

(Claire goes off to find me some books to recommend and comes back with a pile so huge I can’t see her face)

Malaysia, Mallorca, Margate….well that’s the booktrailer sorted for the next few months!

The joys of travelling with a good book – sometimes you don’t know where you will end up!

Visit Cogito here –http://cogitobooksonline.tbpcontrol.co.uk/tbp.direct/customeraccesscontrol/home.aspx?d=cogitobooksonline&s=C&r=10000161&ui=0&bc=0  or better still take a lovely train journey up to Northumberland and spend the weekend reading and enjoying tea and cake! aaah bliss

Visit them on Twitter too – @cogitobooks and Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CogitoBooks 

Nothing should Foyle you from getting to this bookstore

There is a lot to be said for booktrails around book shops – in fact the author Emma Chapman, author of ‘How to be a Good Wife’  is herself currently indie bookshop trailing up and down the country visiting lots of hidden and not so hidden gems of literary goodness. What a dream job! We’ve done a few ourselves this week – only a few – a kind of mini bookshopcrawl – and it’s been fun. Wonder what Emma’s book haul might be!

One of my rather battered books from my latest book haul
One of my rather battered books from my latest book haul

The biggest and newest bookshop we visited last week was the brand new spanking Foyles in the middle of Charring Cross Road. I was excited about this one – as having seen the huge amount of work that the booksellers had done by merely filling the shelves and getting the store ready was amazing to watch. See the video here –

As soon as I walked in the large glass doors, light flooded into the entrance – like a scene of Downton Abbey when you walk in the main doors and see the grand staircase of the house  – but instead of women dressed for dinner and men suited in classic jackets, the only visions I saw were well dressed book displays and book jackets making themselves quite at home thank you very much on shelves, tables, the stairs…

The grand entrance
The grand entrance

I felt a bit giddy… I mean where do I go first? Straight to the back where the children’s section was with some really nice table displays, turn right and head to the latest releases, and literary gifts near the tills. What about all those lovely floors to explore? Which one? There’s even a store directory – now that is a book department store is it not?

Books  stand like old fashioned chorus girls singing and showing you the way...
Books stand like old fashioned chorus girls singing and showing you the way…

But then I looked a bit further – why not visit the cafe – the sign brilliantly displayed on vintage typewriter keys….I say that, it took me a further 40 minutes to get there as, well, I kept getting distracted….

Perfect place for a cuppa and a cake!
Perfect place for a cuppa and a cake!

The store is just one delight and discovery after another. The music section, with music gifts, merchandise all dotted around and displayed in imaginative ways…The ‘party’ table with all those having book birthdays having a ball….The crime vaults…

The bookshelves of every booktrailers dream...
Read in the original language or the English translation..or learn a language!

And my personal favourite – the translated section and the foreign language fiction – Aah I can’t tell you how much time I spent here (or books bought). Separated by language and country – aah I felt as if this book shop had been arranged just for me. Ever since Grant and  Cutler had gone to that great bookshop n the sky, I had been I could wander via country and read the words of Carlos Ruiz Zafon in his native Spanish, then wander to read Muriel Barbery in French. 

Translated beauties
Translated beauties

Then off to the translated titles…hmm this looks good 😉

Same cover, wonderfully different title. Why do I love seeing the same book in other languages?
Same cover, wonderfully different title. Why do I love seeing the same book in other languages?

Wandering around the corner, I discovered the section that was to kept me in its throes for a good 3 hours. Was it three? I only know that it was bright sunshine when I entered the store and pitch black when I left.

But that is where the real magic of a bookshop experience lies…that when you come out you have no real idea and no real care of how long you’ve been in there.

Foyles flagship store is at 107 Charing Cross Road in London – http://www.foyles.co.uk/ 

Goldsboro Books – a step into the past – IBW 2014

As part of a special indiebookcrawl for IBW14, an important and not to be missed book emporium is the wonderful Goldsboro books in Cecil Court, London. For this is no ordinary book emporium for it is rather like a castle of books tucked away in a medieval alley way in London –

The book emporium that is Goldsboro
The book emporium that is Goldsboro

It is reached by stepping back in time, both literally and figuratively, since the store is located half way down an alley where the hustle and bustle of nearby charring Cross Road seems to well, just disappear.

Passing shop fronts that wouldn’t look out of place in a Charles Dickens scene, the signs hanging outside each one announced what each store contained – shouts of ‘ rare’  ‘ special’ and ‘first editions’ littered the air. If you want to buy history then you have come to the right place. If you want to buy a special piece of literary history then you have definitely come to the right place! 

Goldsboro subjects all lined up standing to attention
Goldsboro subjects all lined up standing to attention

One of the gentlemen to work in such a literary emporium is Harry – not he of the Royal Palace association but the well -known royal literary figure known as Lord Harry of Goldsboro

He walked round the book kingdom and introduced me to all of his subjects one by one. Unlike most royal figures, he knew each one personally and told me of their worth and of their standing in the kingdom. There were a group of book subjects all huddled together in the corner behind a glass case – these were the criminal gang he said and so had to be locked up for their own safety. but if I wanted to meet with them then I could..

the clock tower in Goldsboro book castle
the clock tower in Goldsboro book castle

So I met David Hewson in the House of Dolls (was this a reference to the houses within a royal gaol ? That I did not know) Val McDermid and Iain Gale….

Then I was introduced to what I can only assume as a royal parade – all of the subjects were lined up in readiness to greet me Harry of Goldsboro said. All of them first editions? (first timers I can only assume, you don’t like to ask)

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And then I met the subject I had come to see. I handed over the bond, and then I took the hands of Laurel, Dorothy, Jimmy and Vivien and left the Goldsboro castle. Kate Morton and her characters were going on a journey to their new home – that of a special friend and book collector.

New subject with paperback at home on the Royal cushion
New subject with paperback on the Royal cushion – ready to be gifted to a special someone

As the door to times gone by danced its merry jig bringing me back to the present day, I stepped out into the alleyway and almost bumped into a well dressed gentleman ambling by the shop.

He turned towards me and before I had the chance to apologise, he raised his hat and winked. Stunned, I stood motionless between him and the Goldsboro window – for now I was looking into the eyes of Charles Dickens himself. And beside him, another smartly dressed gentleman I recognised as Wilkie Collins.

Mr Collins looked at me as if I was  some sort of curiosity  Moments passed before I realised that this was an experience that no one would believe when I told them later. 

I stuttered in my attempts to ask for a photograph. They looked at me in confusion – photos were around then I was sure – I’ve seen picture of them both after all. But when I took my camera phone from my pocket, Mr Dickens looked aghast.

I did indeed take a picture and after a rather confused Wilkie Collins chatting in horror with Dickens as to what on earth that contraption was’, ‘I Phone dear?’Can’t she talk properly? She’s talking as if she were the phone! Apple? Now I think she’s the one to have take a little landanum – and they talk about me! 

I left them both, bewildered to saunter back along Cecil Court.

Later, back in my rooms, I placed my literary book treasure on the table and took my phone out to see my other unexpected find

but there was no -one there

I swear Dickens and Collins were here! Right here!
I swear Dickens and Collins were here! Right here!

All I got was the street.

And a memorable visit to  the bookish lair that is Goldsboro books  – an experience that I shall never forget

Bookshop booktrail – day 1

Last week was one of the best weeks in book history  – a week where everyone up and down the country was encouraged to support their local indie bookstore and of course to buy books.

Well we don’t do things by halves here at BookTrail towers so we decided to do a mammoth bookshop booktrail to thank all of those lovely indie booksellers who love books

The booktrailer does Booksellers Week 2014

Book day 1 – West End Lane Books, Hampstead

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Now this was a lovely first stop. Took the tube and got off in leafy Hampstead. It was a lovely hot day so I was in great need for a book and a little visit to the nearby park to sit and read it.

The lovely and rather famous self titled ‘Humble book serf’ Saskia van Emden works there and she was my personal book personal shopper that day. What fun we had – selecting books, talking about books, taking books off the shelves and admiring the covers. Oh and when the book postman came to visit, there was a level of such excitement that I remembered what it was like to be a child again at Christmas time!

Here I was, with WEL books in my sight….

Aah West End Lane books...
Aah West End Lane books…

WEL books, apart from having one of the most funny and amusing twitter profiles of any bookshop, is full to the brim of great literature. There’s a lovely children’s corner (complete with Penguin who always has a kind word to say)

My new friend
My new friend

A tower of books with limited edition covers…….

the book tower
the book tower

Creaky wooden floorboards as the best bookshops should always have – its adds to the mood and the atmosphere of book browsing

Books and the book tower!
Those perfect book browsing floorboards

I spent some time there – browsing, chatting and wishing I worked there! so what did I buy? Well given my love of location, I was recommended a book set in Hampstead! And it looked so good that I immediately bought it, complete with free WELbooks bookmark – how excited was I?

Book set in Hampstead!
Book set in Hampstead!

I left WEL books and looked for a lovely place to read my new purchase. Spotting some yellow stone steps right in the sun, I parked myself down beside a church looking building and was just about to read when I spotted a sign saying  ‘Library’  – well that was me gone. A lovely quaint library with a lovely local selection and a rather grand entrance and yellow stone steps.

Perfect.

Book haul on day 1? One so far but a good booktrailer has to try and pace themselves hehe

Visit WEL books on line here – http://www.welbooks.co.uk/ 

Indie bookseller week starts here – Saskia van Emden – WestEndLane books – London

Today marks Independent Booksellers Week Eve – for tomorrow is the start of one of the most xciting events in book selling history. Organised by Books Are My Bag, it’s a fab opportunity to visit an indie bookstore, buy a book, chat to the lovely people there who offer advice and enthusiasm for books and maybe see an author!

To celebrate this, we at the booktrail have been to West End Lane books in London to speak to the lovely Saskia van Emden who calls herself a humble serf at WELbooks and since she is a medieval history aficionado, that sounds quite apt to us. She reads books, she sells books, she sniffs books ANd she is even writing a book. Oh and she’s an honorary booktrailer as she travels A LOT with a book in hand – especially to France to see  France through the eyes of the Platagenets.

She’s coming for a cuppa and a cake today – thought I would give her a little time to chat and relax before Independent Bookseller Week starts in earnest.

Ready for Saskia....
It is vital to look after these booksellers you know..

Hi Saskia. Welcome to the booktrail. I do love a good chat with a fellow book lover. Here take a piece of chocolate cake – oh and a marshmallow. I’ve got loads I want to chat to you about.

Saskia of WELbooks, London
Saskia of WELbooks, London

Your slogan ‘Writes, travels and researches Plantagenet Europe one Eurostar trip at a time ‘ sounds right up our street! We travel the world one book at a time so it’s great to have you on board if you excuse the bad pun. Where have you been to recently?

Where haven’t I been? Sorry for the clichéd response, as you can tell from my slogan I travel around France rather extensively as research for my novel. In the last year I’ve covered Normandy, the Loire Valley, parts of Aquitaine, Paris and also Limoges. The wonderful thing about France is its size and the sheer difference between the many regions you can travel to. In the space of three hours you can travel from the forested mountains of Chinon to the beautiful seaside ports of La Rochelle which seems more like a Mediterranean village than a French town. In the past year or so I’ve  been lucky enough to visit Le Mans, Tours, Limoges, Bordeaux, Paris, Angers, Saumur, Rouen, Bayeux, Poitiers, Caen and the villages of Chinon, Fontevraud and Chenonceaux where you can find stunning examples of medieval and Renaissance architecture. 

 

La Rochelle is a stunning location for a book
La Rochelle is a stunning location for a book (c)Saskia van Emden

Tell us about your favourite historical novel and the places you have visited from reading it.

At a push I’d have to say my favourite historical novel is Pillars of the Earth mainly because it covers  my favourite period 12th century England! The novel is set during the anarchy period documenting the effects of the brutal civil war between Stephen and Matilda on the fictional towns of Kingsbridge and Shiring. I know that the fictional towns and the cathedral built in the book are loosely based in Salisbury and sadly I’ve yet to go there! Not to spoil too much, I have been to Canterbury which features heavily in the latter stages of the book and also to the various regions in Anjou where Matilda (referred to as Maud) lived when not in England. 

What is it that you love so much about historical fiction?

Historical fiction for me is such a tricky thing to get right and for me, more times than not, I don’t enjoy what I read. It is not a case of me being ridiculously picky, but I find the more romantically set ones to be a tad repetitive. That said, when I do find a historical novel I enjoy I often tend to re-read them to death. In my opinion a successful historic novel creates compelling characters, paints a picture vividly and transports the reader to another time. A historical novel is the ultimate escape when it comes to fiction, they represent those stolen moments where a person can briefly disengage from the stresses of 21st century life and decompress.

Your favourite historical fiction novel?

One of Saskia's recent reads - set in Greece
One of Saskia’s recent reads – set in Greece

That’s an impossible question for me to answer, because I go through stages of obsessions with historical fiction. As I’m unable to pick one I’ll cheat and list a few. I’ve just finished The Last King of Lydia the debut novel by Tim Leach. It’s about the rise and fall of the powerful Middle Eastern king Croesus and his struggle to understand the transient nature of happiness during and after his reign. Besides Pillars of the Earth I’d highly recommend Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles (recently reviewed on my blog), Blood and Beauty a book about Lucrezia Borgia by the wonderful Sarah Dunant, Andrew Miller’s Pure which serialises the construction of the Parisian catacombs and finally that old classic I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

Which character from historical fiction would you be?

Next time you pop into WEL books, you may see Saskia dressed like this...
Next time you pop into WEL books, you may see Saskia dressed like this…

In an effort not to complicate things I’ll stick with a female character rather than go through every character I can think of. I’d quite like to be a character from Greek mythology, probably Athena who is the insanely cool goddess of war and wisdom who features in classical, medieval and modern literature. 

 Favourite historical fiction author?

At the moment it’s Madeline Miller because her prose is perfection, her research is impeccable and her passion palpable. I can only hope she writes a second book!

A dinner party with the Plantagenets..who would you want to sit next to and why?

My friends would expect me to say Henry II so I’m going to throw a curveball and say his son Young Henry or Prince Hal. Hal was a little more extravagant than his frugal father, spending vast amounts of feasts, clothes and tournaments. In modern terms the guy was a total playboy prince which would probably provide memorable conversation than Henry Sr! 

Please tell us about the book you are writing – where is it set?

My book The Vanquished Crown is a 12th century epic that brings to life the meteoric rise and crushing downfall of one of England’s most infamous and misunderstood kings, Henry II. The novel introduces readers to one of history’s most dysfunctional families: his wife, the original she-wolf and political power-monger Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his embattled sons, the future Richard The Lionheart and King John. A heady mix of murder, marriage and misfortune, The Vanquished Crown journeys through almost 60 years of medieval history. We see Henry develop from a stubborn boy, troublesome heir, conquering king and political strategist and, finally, an isolated and vanquished monarch, discovering on the way the humanity behind the mythology of the wrathful and brutal king who is now seldom remembered for much more than his supposed dispatching of Thomas a Becket with ‘who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’ 

A setting from Saskia's book? A stunning medieval castle in the Loire Valley
A setting from Saskia’s book? A stunning medieval castle in the Loire Valley

Set in England and much of France, writing this book has taken me from the highest peaks in the Loire Valley to crypts of Canterbury Cathedral. I am very visual when it comes to research, I have to see the places I’m writing about and through the book I’ve not only learnt a huge amount of new history but also about myself. I have been wholly privileged to experience the things I have and I encourage anyone with an idea to do the same.

Thanks for stopping by Saskia! Eeh you’ll be parched after all that chatting, I am! I’ll pop the kettle back on and we’ll have a rest. Then you can get back and finish preparing for tomorrow.

WEL books in London - the booklovers paradise
West End Lane books in London – the booklovers paradise

WEL books can be found at http://westendlanebooks.co.uk/  or 227 WEst End Lane London – Nearest tube station is West Hampstead. Go..now! and buy a book from Saskia!

Saskia’s historical dabblings can be read at saskiaregina.wordpress.com

French fancies

paris

 

The world is full of people who love Paris. If you know the city already, you’ll be one of them If you’re about to go there for the first time, then you will soon be part of the ‘ I love Paris’ tribe – a tribe that is scattered all over the world.

 

How true are the opening words to the City Pick Guide to Paris – snippets of comments and pieces from books all about Paris in all its forms – its emotions, the people, the locations and the magic of the city overall Paris is a lot more than the many tourist sites it has on offer, its cafes, baguettes and wine for example –

Visit the Eiffel Tower – 

Published by Gallic Books
Published by Gallic Books

Read the Booktrail of this book here –https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/murder-on-the-eiffel-tower-paris/ 

so brilliant someone's written a book about it!
so brilliant someone’s written a book about it!

MUST visit the best English language bookshop in the city – http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/

 

Paris is a city with a bloody history, mysteries and murders, great art and even great cuisine. Plus one of the most famous cemeteries in the world – where Jim Morrison amongst others is buried.

By Gallic Books
By Gallic Books

Can’t get to Paris just now? Well then sit back and relax and travel from the comfort of your armchair for City Pick gives you the option and takes you on a thrilling ride around one of the most famous and most magical city via the books and writing by local writers

Our favourites mentioned – sites and books to read further? All huddled together under headings such as I love Paris, Le Menu, sex in the city make this a cocktail of a book you can drink and drink with no fear of a hangover!

paris

The guide is introduced  by Stephen who wrote an hilarious and often oh so true a Year in the Merde based on his experience there –

ayearinthemerde

 

They do eat a lot of cheese some of which smells like pigs’ droppings. They don’t wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after pétanque. And yes they do use suppositories.

 

Haha! But Don’t take anyone’s word for it – be inspired to discover Paris for yourself

 

City pick guides – http://thecity-litcafe.typepad.com/

Gallic books – http://gallicbooks.com/

A Year in the Merde – http://www.stephenclarkewriter.com/