An ode to postmen – via books


This morning a postman brought 5 books to booktrail towers. As we often order books on line and get sent them, not to mention sending out books on competitions, we see postmen struggling under their weight.


So today when a lovely cheery chap knocked on the door, I skipped to the front door with the anticipation of new books on my baited breath. I knew this was going to be a good moment – there were some humdingers in the expected bundle. But more so as it was torrential rain outside that I was extremely grateful that a delivery was being made at all.

There are booktrails to be done this weekend! With the novels we have now, we’re off to Germany, Colorado, Spain and many more places via a book. For now these are just some of the locations our post themed books have taken us in the UK –

The Clyde setting in The Postcard - Charring Cross Road in London, famvous for the letters and love affair between two bookstore owners - Sissinghust Castle, inpsiration for Kate Morton's Distant Hours which has the line ' It started with a letter'
The Clyde setting in The Postcard – Charring Cross Road in London, famous for the letters and love affair between two bookstore owners – Sissinghurst Castle, inspiration for Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours which has the line ‘ It started with a letter’

Opening the door, there was a postman wrapped up so tight in a jacket that you could barely see his face, and what you could see of it was hidden by the flow of rain, it was down his face, in his eyes, all over his bag. He was like a walking Niagara Falls. I offered him shelter but he persevered on. More books appeared from under his arm, in his bag. He apologised if they were wet! This man was bringing books – spreading reading joy – his arms must have been dead with the weight. And as for the books? – in perfect condition the parcels only having a few little drops on them if anything.

Some books about letters and post - plus a very deluged postman!
Some books about letters and post – plus a very deluged postman! The Postcard has destinations all over the world, Kate Morton’s book on a letter which started it all, and the famous literary love affair in letter form


So if you see a damp postman with a broken arm, give him a hug. For the booktrailers will be forever grateful for the day this cheery chap made our day. He cracked a joke, gave a smile and went on his merry way.

Royal Mail we depend on you so much and we salute you for now this weekend we are able to do what we love and travel via books. We hope you come with us –

Booktrails –

The Postcard – 

The Distant Hours –

Charing Cross Road –


The locations of Apple Tree Yard

One spur of the moment decision can change your life in ways no one ever could have forseen.


 Story in a nutshell – 

Yvonne Carmichael is a scientist, with a seemingly perfect life of a beautiful home and a good marriage.

One day she meets a man in the Houses of Parliament and the two of them start an affair.

It’s the start of a reckless liaison but there is much more at stake here – for there is a lot more to her lover than is apparent.

And neither of then could have foreseen what happens next….

Set in London – in and around the Houses of Parliament and of course Apple Tree Yard

locations of Apple Tree Yard as walked by the Booktrailer - image courtesy of Google Maps
locations of Apple Tree Yard  – image courtesy of Google Maps

A – Westminster Bridge

B- Houses of Parliament and Palace of Westminster

C – Charles II Street

D – Duke of York Street

E – St. James’s Square

F – Apple Tree Yard

The novel opens up at the Old Bailey –

Entrance of the Old Bailey
Entrance of the Old Bailey

We don’t know the meaning or significance of Apple Tree Yard – and why it should be the title of the book at this point – but a keen piece of foreshadowing in the opening courtroom scene sets it up nicely –

You are familiar aren’t you?’ says Mrs Bonnard in her satin , sinuous voice, ‘with a small back alleyway called Apple Tree Yard.’

The novels opens as Yvonne is on trial as a direct result of her affair but for exactly what kind of crime we are not sure yet. The tension is palpable and the starkness of the court walls feel as if they are closing in on both Yvonne and the reader.  –

 I know that in a few seconds, I will start to hyperventilate . I know this even though I have never done it before.

Her inner turmoil is compounded by the fact that much of the novel is written in Yvonne’s mind so that her turmoil and sheer panic that is most effective and alarming is always there, in indirect conversation with her secret lover giving the whole novel a feeling of subterfuge amidst a black veil of confusion as well as secrecy.


The start of the affair –

You paused briefly, then said, ‘Have you seen the Chapel in the Crypt?’ Your tone was light, conversational. I gave a small shake of the head. ‘ Would you like to?’

As the affair continues and becomes even more frenetic and dangerous, it is in complete contrast to the calm, professional exterior of Westminster, the tourists and the Houses of Parliament where Yvonne and the man both work and where  they conduct their affair –

Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster – (c) Thebooktrail

I wander up to the house of Parliament and take a walk over Westminster Bridge and pause to lean back against the stone balustrade and watch the tourists holding up their iPads up to Big Ben.

View of Big Ben from Parliament Square
View of Big Ben from Parliament Square

It’s the order of everything so out of place with what Yvonne and her lover are doing that are so thrilling to read. This is a real mystery – which is unlocked by coming to know Yvonne, her reasoning and “excuses” for the affair, the lies she tells herself.  Seeing and getting to know her lover only through her eyes makes him an enigma  and all the more thrilling as we see him as she does, and finds out about him at the same time as we do –

Their meetings are dirty and phone numbers are swapped in rushed exchanges –

We are still deep in conversation in the cafe on Duke of York Street, deep in our mutual exchange of confidences, when you sit back in your chair and say, abruptly, ‘I have to go now’

Duke of York Street
Duke of York Street
Duke of York Street

Addictive. Totally and utterly addictive. Yvonne, as she tells us the story, is very dry and exacting as she digs herself deeper and deeper into a situation that causes her entire world to come crashing down. There is a horrific scene of violence at one point which made me put down the book and not pick it up again until much later. But read on, as the situation rages furiously out of control and we start to see exactly why the two lovers have found themselves in the dock of the old Bailey. Yvonne assumes so much about a man she knows nothing about. We all know how dangerous ‘assuming’ can be.

Yvonne sits here
Yvonne says- I could sit in the Square for a while, but it’s cold, and too close to my office. I walk up  Duke of York Street looking for a cafe – I’m quite close to Piccadilly
St James Square
St James Square

And through flashbacks we return to Apple Tree Yard and why this is an important part of the court case –

Apple Tree Yard
Unassuming Apple Tree Yard

You are familiar aren’t you?’ says Mrs Bonnard in her satin, sinuous voice, ‘with a small back alleyway called Apple Tree Yard.’

She wants everyone in the courtroom , but especially the jury, to know this is a significant moment.

So, the booktrail did the booktrail of the sites in the book, went to Apple Tree Yard where the book exploded into life. The dark alleys, the small, narrow streets, the innocent looking cafes, the Houses of Parliament..

There was no street sign due to scaffolding but the name was emblazoned right here!
There was no street sign due to scaffolding but the name was emblazoned right here!

And all the while, men and women in smart grey suits strode past, files under their arms, Ipads in their bags and phones stuck to their ears…could any of them have been Yvonne or her lover?

And what about where they were going and who they were going to meet?

What do we assume everyday about people?

And just how dangerous can assuming be?

Book Advent – day 23 – Booktrail top ten


This year we have read some fantastic books and been to some fantastic places so here is our top ten in no particular order to inspire you to travel – via your armchair this Christmas season –

Bamburgh, Northumberland
Bamburgh, Northumberland
A journey through Cuba
A train journey through Cuba
Paris, France
The mysterious backstreets of Paris, France


To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
The Garden of Evening Mists
The Garden of Evening Mists in Malaysia


experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
Experience the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona
Step inside the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona –  in Shadow of the Wind
Explore the mystery of Keswick and it surroundings in Island of Bones
Explore the mystery of Keswick and its surroundings in Island of Bones


The amusing goings on in a small village in India
The amusing goings on in a small village in Pakistan. Get a cultural insight and make great friends


Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller
Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller

So, there you have it, our top ten books this year. We’d love to hear yours and we do actually have loads more except we couldnt fit them all in. How do you pick only ten? Well based on location and atmosphere, these ten really did pack some punch. And well because I had to include this one –

Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans...
Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans…

Well, I guess that makes it 11 – well we best stop there otherwise we’d be here all night adding all our favs. Tomorrow we chose one that has both surprised and amazed us in equal measure. An imaginary location but one which we would love to go back to very very soon…….



Edinburgh Book Festival – Why Fiction is beautiful

Why fiction is beautiful – Canadian author Margaret Atwood


This is the first post of a few I will be doing featuring some of the authors of the Edinburgh book festival which starts this Saturday August 10th. I have decided to start with Margaret Atwood as she was the first Canadian author I read and I discovered many more Canadian books and authors thanks to her.

Her collection of books and stories is impressive. Some of these books below were bought in Canada as as well as the stories, I thought the book covers were quite something too. I mean just take a look at them:

eerie, unsettling, Daliesque and not unlike a dark fairytale
Eerie, unsettling, Dali-esque or the setting for a dark fairytale?
As the book blurb says: 'Imprisoned by walls of their own construction...' The book cover seems  to represent this via another Dali-esque design
As the book blurb says: ‘Imprisoned by walls of their own construction…’ The book cover seems to represent this via another Dali-esque design
Ten days after the water eded, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge
Ten days after the water eded, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge

The cover represents the age and elegance of the time. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century.

As if it were a artistic sketch on the wall of a empty, grey gallery
As if it were a artistic sketch on the wall of a empty, grey gallery

photo-58And for one of my favourites if not only for the detail and the artwork involved. I would quite happily hang this book cover on my wall. In fact, I think I will. ‘All books are equal to art forms but some are more equal than others’ – very animal farm I know but something I believe to be true. All of the above could be artistic paintings hanging in a gallery. I’m just pleased they are currently gracing my shelves in my book, I mean ART display case.

Why fiction is beautiful


Why fiction is beautiful


1. Book covers are an art form in their own right:

A beautiful art form - my favourite book cover I think I've ever seen
A beautiful art form – my favourite book cover I think I’ve ever seen



2. Reading a book awakens all the senses – touch, smell of the pages, seeing the words on the page and hearing the voices of the characters

3. Reading forms and encourages the mind like nothing else ever could

4. It takes you to places that you may never have travelled to otherwise, and gives you an experience you may never have had – like jumping into a cool lake on a hot day:


 Jump right in to a good book
Jump right in to a good book



5. It’s an escape to another world, another time

6. Like the Mr Benn cartoon – where a man in a fancy dress shop enters a parallel world full of colourful characters and situations – a book takes us on this very journey as adults

7. A world without books is a world without hope

8. A world without fiction is a world where Alice never went to Wonderland, where Charlie didn’t visit the chocolate factory and where Harry Potter never discovered the magic of Hogwarts.

9. I live, eat, and breathe fiction. Without it I would die

10. Fiction is beautiful because it’s my friend. It sits with me when I’m sad, it comforts me at night and it lies on the grass beside me in the park when I’m enjoying the sun. And my fiction friends share my home with me. I would feel lost without them

Travel to another time and place
Travel to another time and place

The Light Between Oceans – A Lighthouse, Australia


Why a booktrail?

The most heartbreaking story we’ve read in a long while. Set on a remote outpost of Australia, a lighthouse is the only thing Tom and Isabel know until one day a boat is washed up with a baby and a man inside. The man is dead but the baby is very much alive….

See the locations in the novel on our new site! The

Story in a nutshell

In the town of Point Partageuse, Australia during the 1920s, a light house keeper (Tom) and his wife (Isabel) find a life boat with a dead man and live baby in it wash up on their beach.

Isabel has suffered several miscarriages. Life is tough and lonely on Janus Rock. A baby would change things. Who would know if they passed the baby off as their own?

“And the baby’s alive. Have a heart Tom”

The Light Between Oceans is a novel of anguish, joy, tears and all the other raw emotions you can think of.

It’s what happens when good people make bad decisions.

Place and setting

Augusta - and Cape Leeuwin - inspiration for Point Partageuse  and the lighthouse there?
Augusta – and Cape Leeuwin – inspiration for Point Partageuse and the lighthouse there?

The lighthouse of Point Partageuse may be fictional but it is the setting, the remote setting of the landscape, the landscape of their grief at not having a baby and the conflicted feelings they have which really shock and suprise. The day a boat containing a dead man washes ashore is one they will never forget-

“And the baby’s alive. Have a heart Tom”

“Something in her tone struck him, and instead of simply contradicting her, he paused and considered her plea. Perhaps she needed a bit of time with a baby. Perhaps he owed her that. There was a silence, and Isabel turned to him in wordless appeal” 

Alongside the main human characters, however, it was the lighthouse which was perhaps the main protagonist, so vivid in every scene. Before Tom and Isabel go and live together, Tom lives there on his own:

“On Janus there is no reason to speak. Tom can go for months and not hear his own voice. He knows some keepers who make a point of singing, just like turning over an engine to make  sure it still works. But Tom finds a freedom in the silence. He listens to the wind. He observes the tiny details of life on the island”

This was a story of everyone’s Janus Rock – that place that we all go to for solitude and the one place that gives us the quiet and loneliness that sometimes we welcome and other times can’t wait to flee. It’s the dark recesses of our mind and conscience.

The Author hails from SW Australia so this is also a port of call when trying to determine the locations even though she has said in an interview that the places just formed in her mind.

The book should ideally be read near a lighthouse set on craggy rocks to get the ultimate booktrail experience.

Reading The Light Between Oceans where the action takes place
Reading The Light Between Oceans where the action takes place
My Janus Rock
My Janus Rock
The view from Janus Rock
The view from Janus Rock – where the boat washes ashore
“On the lights you account for every single day” - page 79
“On the lights you account for every single day” – page 79
“In time, as the ghosts starts to dissolve in the pure Janus air” - page 79
“In time, as the ghosts starts to dissolve in the pure Janus air” – page 79

Bookish musings by Susan

The story itself will not only touch you but wrench out your heart and your moral compass in several places. ML Stedman creates some VERY difficult scenarios whilst making you feel as if although you might not agree with what they decide to do, you understand in some way.

Battling with your inner conflict is something that we all do at some point but on an issue as important as a child’s future, it takes on a whole new level.

Think of yourself as a 4 year old child when the whole world revolved around your mother and how things were so simple and uncomplicated. Next imagine that little child trapped at the centre of a moral whirlwind and her realisation of her position as she starts to grow up.

The Light Between Oceans made me cry. I had to read it in one day as after leaving my own version of the lighthouse setting, I returned home and read the rest in bed. I noticed it was midnight so I turned out the light.

Seconds later it went back on until I read the last page.

But I was still at that lighthouse on Janus Rock for a long time afterwards.

Book poetry

I have so many books that I sometimes don’t know what to do with them all – I mean I can only read a few at a time and so the rest have to just hang out on their shelves and talk amongst themselves until I can sit them on my knee and hold them in my hands in a warm hug as we enjoy each other’s company.

I feel the tug of wanting to spend time with those books on the shelves but not wanting to miss out on their unique qualities and the stories they have yet to tell. Sometimes books I have read suddenly catch my eye too as I remember the good times we’ve spent together – their often bedraggled state reminding me of the days on the beach, down by the river, sitting on the bus that time I spilt my coffee…oops

So sometimes I like to spend a little moment with these friends. So we made a poem about a train journey. Here goes…*clears throat*

A book poem

Book poetry in motion
Book poetry in motion

Falling leaves on the line often cause a stir

127 hours with no news and time seems to go past  in a blur

Is the train still stuck in the yard we wonder? Will we be waiting here for ever?

Should we jump in a taxi or a even lifeboat depending on the weather

When where there be good news we cry? Will there be a nice surprise?

Just what ever you do Train Announcer, just don’t pull the wool over our eyes

Booktrail around Newcastle – Mari Hannah’s The Murder Wall

mari hannah book

The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah is a debut police procedural set in the North East of England.

Living in the North East made me really really want to read this novel especially so I could see and visit the places where it is set. Now granted, this may sound a bit strange for a crime novel but it is a great book so it was not a hard decision. I admit that I haven’t read much crime fiction due to the often brutal content but I can tell you that this book (and the two further books in the series) has made me change my mind. It’s clever and more CSI than simply a book about murder. It’s about the real people involved in an investigation and the hard and brutal challenges they face.

I admit I was shocked at the opening chapter. It certainly makes you sit up and take notice! But it didn’t put me off – I just didn’t read much of it at night!

Two deaths at the beginning of the book happen in a church and a year later they remain unsolved much to the chagrin of Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels. Now she is called upon to investigate the murder of Alan Stephens on the Quayside who she recognises but is reluctant to reveal for reasons that become clear later on.

The Quayside
The Quayside

It soon becomes apparent that there is a serial killer stalking victims in and around the North-East of England.

I really felt as if I was central witness sitting in the same room in front of the Murder Wall – the wall where all information and photographs of the crime scene are displayed. I was there sat beside Kate and feeling her frustration and vulnerability. Kate had an interesting backstory and personal story which enhanced the novel as it was so different to other ‘detective’ stories I’ve read.

You only get as much information as the police uncover, with the exception of passages from the killer’s point of view. Very very clever…..

So I decided to walk in Kate’s footsteps and see her investigate the crime through her eyes…

1. The iconic Newcastle Quayside where the murder of Alan Stephens takes place  and the Exhibition park where we first meet Jo Soulsby in Chapter two:

The Sage
The Sage
The Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge

The quayside was buzzing with energy. On the south side of the river, the Sage music centre sat like a silver bubble gleaming in the moonlight.  To the left of it, the gateshead millennium bridge…page 12

2. Exhibition park….

The entrance to Exhibition Park
The entrance to Exhibition Park
Getting a taxi outside of the park as Jo Soulsby would have done
Getting a taxi outside of the park as Jo Soulsby would have done

Jo Soulsby looked down at her feet, hoping the two young women hurrying from the northern exit of Exhibition Park hadn’t noticed her.

Hauling herself from the bench, she moved unsteadily toward the perimeter fence…

Almost immediately, a taxi pulled to the kerb – page 18,19

3. Swan house roundabout

55 Degrees North
55 Degrees North
Looking at the Tyne Bridge from 55Degrees North
Looking at the Tyne Bridge from 55Degrees North

Daniels was stationary at the North end of the Tyne bridge , waiting to gain access to the Swan House roundabout. In the centre of the island, looming  high above the city, was a former government block converted to apartments  and renamed 55 o North. She stared up at it, wondering why anyone would want to live above  a traffic nightmare. – page 58

 3. Jesmond – where Kate Daniels lives

Holly Avenue where Kate Daniels lives
Holly Avenue where Kate Daniels lives
Holly Avenue  - the home of DCI Kate Daniels
Holly Avenue – which is the home of DCI Kate Daniels?
Kate's view of her street on her way home?
Kate’s view of her street on her way home?

The leafy suburb of Jesmond was a cosmopolitan area with good shops, hotels, restaurants and trendy bars. Although it was different to the rural area where Daniels had spent her childhood, she liked the fact that it still retained a villagely feel. – page 58

 4. Dene’s deli in Jesmond

The leafy streets of Jesmond
The leafy streets of Jesmond
Dene's Deli - the home of the perfect sandwich
Dene’s Deli – the home of the perfect sandwich

‘The best sandwiches around as far as Daniels was concerned.” – 119

I second that. I mean where else can you get a baguette stuffed with bacon and hot mango sauce! I ate this in one hand with my novel in the other. Food for all the senses hehe

 5. The Baltic on Newcastle’s Quayside:

The Baltic
The Baltic

Daniels walked to the window and  looked out at the Millennium Bridge; a giant  curved structure known locally as the ‘blinking eye’. Her won eyes  followed a large party of students  making their way across the river to the Baltic, a converted flour mill,  now a centre of contemporary art, the largest gallery of its type in the world. – page 162

 6. The living room on Grey street where she meets her colleague Ron Naylor..


Always the policeman, she knew he’d sit facing facing the door, careful never to turn his back on potential trouble. – 181

Murder Wall is the first in the series of  cases for DCI Kate Daniels and I can’t wait to read them next. They are not only fascinating and brilliant insights into police procedures and a well-developed female protagonist but a great way of exploring some lovely areas of Newcastle.

Take the book. Take the bus to Jesmond. Eat at Dene’s Deli and spend time with Kate Daniels on the Quayside. Get into the heart of the story and experience the city that Mari Hannah showcases so well.

Independent Booksellers’ Week

In honour of Independent Booksellers’ Week I wanted to write a little blog post which celebrated these lovely people and the literary havens that they lovingly create.

The importance of independent bookshops can not be underestimated. These three little beauties are all in lovely Northumberland….

1. Forum Books, Corbridge

Forum Books
Forum Books

According to their Twitter slogan:

There’s more to us than books you know, but not much more.

Well I disagree – but I suppose an impressive range of books, imaginative window displays, very friendly staff and a real passion for all things book and author related just isn’t very catchy for a slogan is it? As you may have read on a previous post  I have been to some very interesting events here. And long may it continue!

I like to go here regularly, buy a book or two and then pop over to the Tea and Tipple cafe for a brew and to enjoy my recent purchase. A perfect literary afternoon in my book (pun intended)

There is a lovely stand just as you enter the store dedicated to Myrmidon Publishers – A North East gem and champion of great books which are just that little bit different.

The website is under construction at the moment but will be at

In the meantime you can find them on Twitter: @forumbooks

2. Cogito books, Hexham

On the way to Harry Potter's Diagon Alley?
On the way to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley?

Another great little shop, tucked away from the main square by a very Harry Potter like half-cobbled alley way  with an arch at its entrance. Magical even before you get to the shop door.

Cogito Books
Cogito Books

And once inside there is no room for disappointment – it is full to the brim, bursting with  books. Stocked up to the ceiling, two rooms joined by a mini passageway leading you to the cavern of books behind it.

I  went here recently and spotted a lovely sign in the children’s section  – at the right as you walk in:

Local authors!
A local author celebrated

Shout out for local authors!

There are regular book groups which meet here and a funny Where’s Wally? search which got children (and adults if I’m honest although this was purely for research purposes you understand) to find 10 Where’s Wally figures hiding in shops in Hexham  in order to be entered for a prize draw . The winner of which will be announced at a party at the bookshop on July 27th.

3. Applebys Bookshop Morpeth

Applebys Bookshop has been owned by Tim Wallace for more than 30 years and has traded since 1886.

It almost closed in 2012 due to a drop in sales which was blamed on the roadworks in the town and parking restrictions but luckily,  people power changed the owner’s mind and he added a coffee shop to make the shop even more attractive. Ooh and don’t get me started about the cakes!

They stock hundreds upon hundreds of books over two mind-blowing floors and have a children’s department with regular story times. In particular, there is a very good section from the US and Canada which is particularly important to me. I’ve always known that apples are good for your health but Appleby’s is vital to your reading health.

What these bookshops mean to me

There are so many good bookshops out there that need people like us to visit and to buy books from.

I’m not putting chain bookstores down. I’m rather sad the likes of Dillons is no longer with us as the death of any bookstore is a sad day. And don’t get me started on libraries.

But the ‘little guys’ are the ones that sometimes get overlooked or forgotten about and these guys need you to support them. In fact I call them ‘little guys’ but they are more like David in David and Goliath –  and have inner and hidden strength that Goliath could never hope to have.

These 3 bookshops are in my home region. They are my friends and the places I go to see hundreds of friendly faces smiling back at me from the bookshelves. They are a place of comfort and of warmth and shelter on a cold wet day. When I step over the threshold, the door is always open, my friends always pleased to see me and I smile and greet them all as I walk in with a smile.

They will always be there for me – somewhere I can go and sit, maybe have a coffee and just take a moment to think. For these friends are good listeners who don’t judge. It works both ways as you should never judge a book by its cover.

And the best bit? My friends are always home. Sometimes though I invite some of them to join me in my own home and so ask their landlady to pack them up for their onward journey.

I’ll take very good care of them I tell her.

And I do. For once my friends have settled in and told me all the stories they are going to tell me, sparked my imagination and spent hours in my company, they are still there just incase I need them again. A true friend never leaves you and I tuck up all my friends in their new home, on MY bookshelves with THEIR new friends.

As I leave my room and turn off the light, I gently close the door behind me and I’m sure I can hear the faint excited chatter of my new book friends making new friends themselves.