Event Recap: An Evening with Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult Waterstones event

Since the middle of October, New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult has been touring the USA, Canada and the UK with her latest novel, Leaving Time. The first stop of Jodi’s tour was an event at St James’s Church, near Piccadilly, and when Waterstones asked me if I wanted to come along, I knew I had to say yes.

Although some of them have been on my to-be-read list for a long time and my friends keep recommending them to me constantly, I haven’t got round to reading Jodi’s books yet. (I will guys, I promise.) But I was interested to hear more about her new novel and see why people fall in love with her stories on the very first page. And, after hearing her talk about the research, the preparation that came before the book, and stories I have to say I get it.

Even within a 90-minute talk, you could hear she’s an amazing storyteller. I don’t know if it’s possible to fall in love with an author’s books before you’ve actually read them but if it is, I’m pretty sure I just did.

And since I know a lot of you live too far away from London and couldn’t make it to the event, I wanted to write a short recap and tell you how the evening went. I don’t want to go into details about the plot and what happens in the book for obvious reasons, but Jodi’s speech about its background was so fascinating that I wanted to share it with you.

Jodi Picoult Waterstones

Waiting for Jodi at St James’s Church, Piccadilly

The book’s original title was Elephant Graveyard but, as Jodi said, her publisher wasn’t too happy about the word elephant… or graveyard, so they changed it to Leaving Time. Since the book is very scientific and elephants feature heavily in the story, Jodi talked a lot about her research on elephants’ behaviour, which I found fascinating.

One of the things I found the most interesting was how elephants deal with death and mourning. According to Jodi, elephants remember and mourn their loved ones even many years after their death. When an elephant walks past a place where another elephant died, he or she will stop and become quiet for a while. They remember this spot and return to it even years after the other elephant’s death. Interestingly, they don’t do any of these with any other animals, only elephants.

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Bloomsbury Book Club – Grantchester Christmas Special

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Regular readers of the blog will know that I love good murder mystery. Whether it’s a book, a film or a TV series, I’m game. My shelves are overflowing with crime novels and I’ve been on the lookout for a new TV show to watch since (the utterly brilliant) Broadchurch came to an end last year. And then I discovered Grantchester.

Based on The Grantchester Mysteries, a series of novels written by James Runcie, Grantchester is now a major TV drama set in 1953 England. It’s not as intense as Broadchurch or some other shows out there (more like Midsomer Murders or Agatha Christie’s stories, I’d say) but it makes for great Monday night telly. I’m only halfway through the series as I’ve been quite busy lately and haven’t had time to catch up, but I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet.

The reason why I’m writing about the show tonight is because I’ve been invited to the Bloomsbury Book Club’s Grantchester Christmas Special event on the 3rd December, and I’d love you to come along! It will be a fantastic evening and it’d be so lovely to meet fellow mystery and Grantchester fans.

In case you’re not convinced, author James Runcie and ITV scriptwriter Daisy Coulam will both be there discussing the the inspiration behind Sidney Chambers’ character and revealing the challenges of adapting the enchanting Sidney Chambers stories. Runcie and Coulam will reveal how Sidney Chambers’ investigations into suspect suicides, a scandalous jewellery theft, a shocking art forgery and unexplained deaths went from novel to screen.

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The Magic of Bookshops | With Jen Campbell

The Magic of Bookshops with Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell is a published poet, short story writer and the author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which was a Sunday Times best-seller. Her latest novel, The Bookshop Book, is the official book of the 2014 Books Are My Bag campaign and has been described as a love letter to bookshops all around the world. Jen stopped by the blog this morning to talk about the magic of books, bookshops, and falling in love with good stories. It’s a beautiful piece and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I put a question up on the ‘Weird Things…’ Facebook page last week: ‘What was your favourite childhood book?’ The comments section exploded: people reminiscing over the Moomins and Roald Dahl, The Animals of Farthing Wood and Jill Murphy. Some said they used to read under the covers at night with a torch; others recalled being read to, or a teacher recommending a book they fell in love with. Some couldn’t remember the title of their books, just flashes of colour or a feeling they conjured up; a feeling of security and warmth.

Books do this to us because we all love stories. Stories offer up places to escape to; characters who become alter egos; different worlds that we want to get to know. It’s why I love reading; it’s why I love working in a bookshop and it’s why I write books myself. Human beings have been making up stories for things we don’t understand, or can’t explain, for as long as we’ve been around to do so: moral tales and fairy tales, myths, legends and everything in between. We have a desire to want to unravel things, even if we can’t. We want to empathise and we want adventure. Books allow us to do that. They allow us to explore.

Helping children pick out stories that they’ll hopefully love is one of the best parts of my job as a bookseller. I once had a little girl in our bookshop who told me she loves bookshops because they are houses for stories. A boy once said I should get a dragon to guard the shop when I wasn’t there. When I asked him if this mightn’t be a fire hazard, he rolled his eyes and said: ‘Well, duh, you’d have to get a trained one.” There’s a never a dull moment – a girl even lost her hamster in the shop last week (thankfully we found him; he hadn’t escaped from her pocket at all, but had eaten away at her coat lining, buried himself inside it and gone to sleep. Crisis averted!).

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Showcase Sunday #91

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone! How are you? How was your week? Mine dragged on a bit (I blame the weather and the constant darkness) but I went to see Jodi Picoult on her UK tour on Wednesday, which was great. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post so keep your eyes peeled! :)


The Best of Miranda by Miranda Hart

Oh Yeah Audrey

 Leaving Time | The Best of Miranda | Oh Yeah, Audrey | Breakfast at Tiffany’s DVD

Waterstones were lovely enough to send me a copy of Jodi’s book before the event, which I’m really excited about, especially after hearing where the idea came from and how much research went into writing it. Judging by the reviews it’s going to be a brilliant read!

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A Day in the Life of a Debut Author | With Emma Kavanagh

A Day in the Life of a Debut Author

Hi guys! To celebrate the paperback publication of her first novel Falling, author Emma Kavanagh has stopped by the blog to talk about what a typical day looks like for a debut author. (It’s definitely less glamorous than we might think!) If you’d like to follow the blog tour and read Emma’s other posts, make sure to visit these blogs.

My days generally begin in utter chaos – getting my 3 year old son ready and out of the door, unloading the dishwasher, tidying up and making enough coffee to keep your average elephant awake for a month. There’s this myth that all writers work in their pyjamas, and whilst I think that’s great in theory, I tend to get dressed just like I would if I was going out to work. I find that it helps me get into the right mindset and helps differentiate work days from rest days. Once all that is done and the house is finally quiet, I settle down on the sofa and open my laptop.

Typically, I begin each day by scanning my notes and reminding myself where I left off. Then I’ll re-read some of what I did the day before, then begin to write. I try not to edit myself too much during the initial writing process, but just let the words pour out. There will be many re-writes to come so I try not to get too bogged down in the minutiae at this stage. If it’s a day where my son is out of the house for a full day, I’ll usually write from 8.30am till around 2pm, depending on how well I’m getting on. The afternoons I tend to reserve for administrative stuff – blog posts, articles, answering e-mails.

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Showcase Sunday #90

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone and welcome to the last Showcase Sunday in October! How are you all? :) Did you have a nice week? Mine was pretty slow and uneventful for a change, but I did go to Pinewood Studios to see the recording of a new Comedy Central sitcom with lovely Sarah Hadland, Ben Ashenden and Johnny Flynn on Friday, which was really good. I’ve been to a few TV recordings in the past couple of months but this is the first sitcom I’ve seen live and it was interesting to see how different the whole filming process is from other type of TV programmes.


 Showcase Sunday 90

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It Started with Paris | Good Girls Don’t Die

The first book, Good Girls Don’t Die, arrived at the end of last week but I didn’t have a chance to show it to you as I was busy with Dewey’s readathon. I haven’t read anything by Isabelle Grey yet but I absolutely love the sound of this one – and the title is just brilliant!

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Robin Talley’s Top 7 LGBT Characters of Color from YA

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In the past few years, the rallying cries have increased for more books for kids and teenagers featuring diverse characters ― and authors and publishers are responding. As we see more and more books featuring characters of color, characters who are LGBT, characters who are disabled, characters who aren’t native English speakers, and other key underrepresented groups, we’re seeing more and more YA books come out featuring characters who fall into more than one of those categories.

Books like these are essential to accurately reflect the world around us. After all, it’s not as if falling into one minority group makes you any less likely to be part of another.

So here’s a list of some of my favorite characters of color in YA novels who are also LGBT, listed in the order they were released. (I’m limiting this list to protagonists, by the way. If I expanded it to include secondary characters, the list would be a lot longer, and there would be even more amazing characters on here.)

I Am JJ from I Am J (2011) by Cris Beam

J is transgender, and he’s also biracial ― his mother is Puerto Rican, his father Jewish. He spends the story trying to understand what it means to be transgender and what it means to be a man, while his parents struggle to accept J the way he is. What astonished me most when reading J’s story for the first time was how real he felt ― I kept expecting to bump into him the next time I went to Starbucks. That’s how complicated and fascinating this guy is.


Aristotle & Dante (tie) from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) by Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz

I went back and forth trying to pick a favorite between these two, but I can’t ― I adore Dante’s romanticism and sincerity, but I also adore Aristotle’s beautiful narration and the complex way he thinks about his amazing family. So in the end, it’s a draw. Aristotle and Dante are both Mexican-American boys growing up in Texas who are slowly, very slowly, beginning to understand that they’re gay, and they’re in love. It’s at that same slow, gentle pace that readers discover that they’re in love with this book, too.

Sahar from If You Could Be Mine (2013) by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be MineUnlike Aristotle and Dante, Sahar and Nasrin, the two Iranian girls at the center of If You Could Be Mine, know they’re in love from the first page. Also unlike Aristotle and Dante, though, readers aren’t likely to root for these two as a couple. Although Sahar sees Nasrin only as the love of her life, readers will quickly discover that Nasrin is undeserving of Sahar’s devotion ― and the extreme measures Sahar to which is willing to go to for her, including undergoing sex reassignment surgery, which is legal in Iran despite the country’s criminalization of homosexuality. Over the course of the story, though, Sahar comes into her own, and by its end I was desperately rooting for her to find happiness ― and independence ― against seemingly impossible odds.

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