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

One Book Lane keyring

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

Lies We Tell Ourselves banner

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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Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon – October, 2014

Dewey's Readathon
Dewey’s readathon is the event I’ve been waiting for since April – and the wait is finally over. The readathon is back! If you haven’t participated before and are wondering what it’s all about, check the official website. The aim of the readathon is for us to spend the next 24 hours reading – it doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re a blogger or not, or what genres you like, everyone and all types of books are welcome. We also take part in hourly challenges and chat with other participants throughout the day. It’s always tons of fun and is a brilliant way to make new friends, so if you’re free this weekend, do join us – it’s not too late to sign up.


One of the things I realised after 5 readathons under my belt is that I always end up reading long books. Which can become a bit exhausting towards the end of the readathon, especially if it’s not a particularly easy read. So I decided to change things up a bit. This time, I selected 3 short and easy books and 2 longer ones. The fact that 4 out of 5 books are review copies is just an added bonus.

Dewey's Readathon TBR

I’ll probably start with the Guinea Pigs Online books (review copies from Quercus). They’re all around 170 pages but since they are children’s books, I should be able to get through them fairly quickly. I’m already halfway through Wonder so the plan is to read the second half and then move on to Cut Out (review copy from Hodder & Stoughton). I already read the first 100 pages of Cut Out as well but I have another 300 to go.

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Top 5 Book to Read This Autumn

Top 5 Autumn Reads 2014
After two weeks of constant rain and fog, I think it’s safe to say that summer is well and truly over. Despite the cold and the long nights, though, I love this time of the year. I always see the chilly weather as the perfect excuse to curl up in bed with a mug of tea, a soft blanket and a good book. There’s something about this season that always makes me want to pick up a good mystery or horror (especially as we’re nearing Halloween), but if you’re looking for something else to read this autumn, I collected 5 new book releases for you that I’m really looking forward to – and you should too!

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes
6 November 2014, Michael Joseph – £18.99

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian KeyesStella Sweeney is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life with her husband Ryan and their two teenage kids in Dublin. She works with – or really for – her terrifyingly ambitious sister Karen in their beauty salon. Nothing to get excited about here. Nothing to make her particularly unhappy. Or happy… No-one would be interested in stealing her life. But then things started to happen… One day, Stella, attempting a good deed, causes a little car accident and faces down a bad tempered, handsome stranger. She hardly gives it much of a thought. But karma is hovering, and is about to take over, swoop in and change Stella’s life for ever. For better or worse. Suddenly Stella has a life. A thrilling glamorous one. A life that other people might start to covet… ”

I absolutely adore Marian and her writing, and I have no doubt in my mind that The Woman Who Stole My Life is going to be another brilliant read.

The Best of Miranda by Miranda Hart
23 October, 2014, Hodder & Stoughton – £14.99

The Best of Miranda by Miranda HartYour favourite, number one best-selling comedian Miranda Hart is giving you an access-all-areas VIP backstage pass to her award-winning sitcom. The Best of Miranda contains the full scripts of Miranda’s six favourite episodes (including her original revises and annotations) so that you can, if you wish to, cast your family to re-enact choice moments in your living room. The book also includes Miranda’s own account of just what goes in to the process of writing, rehearsing and filming, hilarious gossip from the making of the sitcom, previously unpublished photographs and material which didn’t make the final edits. Other extras include recipes for Gary’s favourite cakes, cringe worthy childhood photos of our favourite comedian, a step-by-step guide to making your own Fruit Friends and Vegetapals and a Marry Gary Board Game.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a soft spot for Miranda’s TV show. I don’t deny the fact that I’ve seen every single episode at least 25 times and it still makes me laugh. So getting a glimpse of how they filmed the series and what happened behind the scenes makes me giddy with excitement. And if her previous book, Is It Just Me?, is anything to go by, it’s going to be bloomin’ marvellous.

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella
25 September, 2014, Bantam Press – £12.99

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie KinsellaBecky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is in Hollywood! It’s as if all her life has been leading to this moment. She’s hanging out with the stars … or at least she will be, when she finally gets to meet movie superstar Sage Seymour, whom husband Luke is now managing. There’s so much to see and do! And getting Minnie through the hurdles for her A-list Hollywood pre-school will require some…er…help.

Becky sets her heart on a new career – she’s going to be a celebrity stylist. Red carpet, here she comes! But Becky soon finds it’s tough in Tinseltown. Luckily her best friend Suze comes over to keep her company, and together they embark on the Hollywood insider trail. But somehow…things aren’t quite working out as they’d hoped. Then Becky’s big chance comes, and it’s an opportunity that money can’t buy. But will it cost her too much?

Although chick-lit is something I tend to avoid, the Shopaholic series is one of my favourite series ever. Becky is just hilarious so if you’re looking for a happy and light hearted read this autumn, I would definitely recommend this one.

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