An Appeal on behalf of my local community @JimReRead #SouthYorkshireFloods #Doncaster #DoncasterFloods

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I have never done a post like this before on the blog, but I cannot have a platform and not use it to make an appeal on behalf of my fellow Doncastrians after the disaster that my home town has suffered this week.

Any of my readers who live in the UK cannot have failed to see the news about the devastating floods which have swept Doncaster over the last week. Local communities have been devastated, homes destroyed, lives blighted. Many people have lost everything. For some of them, this is the second time in the last twelve years that their homes have been destroyed by floods. Many no longer have insurance to cover their losses. 1,000 homes have been affected so far, and more rain is falling as we speak, so yet more may be hit.

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The main village affected is only 5 miles from my house, it is a terrible thing to see. Each of us must think, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

The only positive to come from this terrible situation is to see how the local communities in Doncaster are rallying round to help each other and now, I am reaching out to my wider community, to see if you can help the people who have been so badly affected by this terrible disaster.

If you are able to give a little, South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation have set up a disaster relief appeal to help the people affected. You can find the appeal’s JustGiving page here. Any tiny amount you can spare would be greatly appreciated and will go a long way to get people back on the road to recovery.

On a more personal note, I would like to reach out to the bookish community of which I am a member on behalf of a cause close to my heart. Re-Read is a social enterprise initiative in Doncaster which collects unwanted books and sells them to raise money in order to distribute new books to children, schools and other organisations around Doncaster to bring reading and books to people who might otherwise not have access to them. They also provide work placements for people who are long-term unemployed.This is the place to which I donate all my books when I have finished with and I think they are a magnificent cause.

Unfortunately, during Thursday night’s floods, Re-Read’s warehouse was flooded, their staff had to be rescued and they have lost their stock of 100,000 books. This is particularly devastating at this time of year when they are preparing for their Christmas children’s book giveaway. They have pretty much lost everything.

If there is anyone who is part of the bookish community who can help get this marvellous organisation get back on their feet, this would be greatly appreciated. They have set up a GoFundMe page to try and raise funds to replace some of their lost equipment and stock, which you can find here. The other way to help, is through donations of books, new or used, that they can sell to raise money to carry on their book giveaways for children this Christmas, or of new books that can themselves been given to the children. I will be taking four crates of books to drop off for them tomorrow, which represent all the stock I keep for replenishing my community free library, and am happy to coordinate collection and delivery of any other books that anyone may be able to send to help out.

If anyone can help with book donations, please feel free to email me at julie@alittlebookproblem.co.uk or via my contact page here, or via Twitter where I am @book_problem and we will organise how this can be achieved.

Thank you for any help you can give us …. from the people of Doncaster.

Making Pearls From Grit by Isla Aitken (@IslaAitken) #GuestPost #breastcancerawarenessmonth #breastcancerawareness #breastcancer #MakingPearlsFromGrit

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a cause that is very close to my heart, as it is only two years since my very oldest friend was taken from us at the age of only 48 as a result of a long and painful battle with the disease, leaving behind devastated family and friends, and two children the same age as my own.

In order to help raise awareness and funds to help in the battle against this disease, I am delighted to be hosting a guest post on the blog today from Isla Aitken, author, and herself a breast cancer survivor. She is going to tell us about her experiences and her book, Making Pearls From Grit. Over to you, Isla.

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Diagnosed with breast cancer while on holiday in Japan, former journalist, environmental activist and one-time politician Isla distracts herself with tourist adventures — including snorkelling in the South China Sea, learning about slipper etiquette and negotiating the three Japanese alphabets.

Back in the less exotic UK, in between chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, Isla considers those other scenes from life – such as depression and farting during sex – and realises how people can be fully constructed by life’s obstacles.

When the family cat dies of lung cancer just as Isla is being cured, her anger at the illness’s victory is undermined by her new discovery of the Japanese philosophy of “ikigai”: reason for being.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer while on what was supposed to be an 11-week trip with my husband and two young children to the Far East. I had already had my suspicions that something might be amiss, but with the trip all booked and organised, I decided to go ahead and, prompted by my GP, see a doctor in Tokyo.

Obviously the Japanese healthcare system had not been on our tourist itinerary but, as it happens, it was… well – not enjoyable, which I was about to say and is clearly the wrong word – reassuring. Reliable. 

It took only one ultrasound and one mammogram in one appointment in the Tokyo hospital for the doctor to confirm that yes, I had breast cancer. What did I do? I went and met husband and children in an amusement park and took daughter on the log flume, while husband, according to son, screamed like a child on the rollercoaster.

What else could I do?

With a couple of weeks until the recommended biopsy, and then another couple of weeks until the biopsy result, we had plenty of time to explore Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as planned. And, cancer diagnosis notwithstanding, that was one of the best, most exciting periods of my life!  

We enjoyed tranquil national parks, and the renowned cherry blossom, bullet trains, earthquakes (!), home schooling, temples and shrines, tempura and other unrecognisable food stuffs, snorkelling in a warm and crystal-clear sea… 

The day after my biopsy result – delivered with detailed care and support by two Japanese doctors – we returned to Edinburgh, and my nine months of intensive treatment began. It took 16 chemotherapy sessions, three surgeries and 19 radiotherapy sessions but I was declared clear of cancer in time for Christmas.

I learned a lot in this period. I learned a lot about my own strength and resilience, and I learned even more about the importance of support networks, of being able to communicate with doctors, of having questions answered, of understanding what is going on. Most importantly, I learned so much about the kindness of people – not just friends, but mere acquaintances. There is such a depth of understanding and sympathy in most people, which leads to them wanting to help in whatever way they can – with childcare, or providing cooked meals, or donating money to cancer charities for research and cures.

That – the good will and benevolence of my community – was invaluable.

While I was being treated, I wrote a blog, to keep friends and family in the loop with regard to how I was getting on (and probably to help me process the experience). The blog was brutally honest. It was often wry, always immodest, and occasionally farcical.  And friends started suggesting I write a book, based on the blog.

Which is what I did.

But obviously I couldn’t just regurgitate the blog, as that was freely available online… So, prompted by the recognition of my own strength – realised during my illness – I started thinking about all those other obstacles, scenes and issues I, and many other women, encounter in life, and which we overcome and assimilate into our very beings.

So the book, Making Pearls From Grit, has ended up being, not just a cancer memoir but also an uplifting story of survival, fortitude, courage and kindness. I hope it can let cancer patients know that they are not alone, and that there are so many of us here willing them on; and it will allow friends and family of those with cancer to understand exactly what they’re going through, without having to ask them personal questions.

My own journey is far from over – while I am cured, the emotional impact of the illness has fairly long-term repercussions. But with the support of my friends, my amazing husband and my brave children, I know how and why to enjoy every single day. 

And we will be returning to Japan, to finish our interrupted trip.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I will be donating money from sales of Making Pearls From Grit to Macmillan Cancer Support, Maggie’s Centres, Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Care throughout the month. To find out more and help support the fundraising, please sign up to my newsletter via www.isla.org.uk or like and follow my Facebook page @IAitkenwriter.”

What an amazing story and an amazing initiative. if you would like to buy a copy of Isla’s book and help support breast cancer charities, you can get a copy here. Or make a donation to one of the many charities working to beat this disease such as https://www.cancerresearchuk.org and https://www.wearitpink.org/

About the Author

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Isla Aitken is a former sub editor and PR consultant, who has given up her career to write full time. She is co-founder of a local cancer support group, and has been an active environmental campaigner for many years. Having published two short stories to Amazon, Making Pearls From Grit, a memoir of her experience as a breast cancer patient, is her first full-length book.

Connect with Isla:

Website: http://www.isla.org.uk

Facebook: I Aitken Writer

Twitter: @IslaAitken

Instagram: @readwriteandrave

Tempted by….Jen Med’s Book Reviews: Trap by Lilja Sigurdardottir @JenMedBkReviews @lilja1972 @OrendaBooks #Trap #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one…and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all…Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

So, around a year ago, I launched a series highlighting books that I have been enticed to buy by reading reviews by my fellow bloggers, after the efficacy of book bloggers in prompting book sales was called in to question.

I know that book bloggers are effective at generating sales for authors because, since I started blogging and reading more reviews by my fabulous fellow bloggers, I have been tempted to buy more and more books, to the extent that I have had to buy three new bookcases in the last year and my Kindle is over-flowing.

The series stalled earlier in the year due to health issues, but I have decided to resurrect it, as I still had a lot of inspiring bloggers on my list when it faltered, and have been tempted by even more in the interim. I apologise that some of the posts referenced are quite old, but rest assured that all the bloggers featured are still active and still writing fantastic reviews to guide us in our book buying choices, so do check out their blogs for up to date content.

The first book and blog featured in this revised series is the utterly marvellous Jen Med’s Book Reviews and this review of Trap by Lilja Sigurdardottir, the second book in her Reykjavik Noir trilogy. Actually, Jen’s review now only inspired me to buy Trap, but also the first book in the series, Snare and I am looking forward to finishing off the trilogy with Lilja’s new book, Cagewhich is out next month.

I love the detail in Jen’s review, which gives you a taste of the book and all the salient points that are going to draw you in to the book, but she manages to do it without giving away any spoilers. This is a real skill for a book blogger and one that Jen displays in all of her reviews. As someone who is quite verbose in her own reviews, I love a detailed blog post and the fact that Jen is a no nonsense but enthusiastic blogger makes her reviews ones that I always take the trouble to read because I know I am going to get the truth of how good or not a book is, with no flannel or waffle.

Jen has a lot of other good stuff on her blog, especially in her weekly wrap ups, and I always get the feeling that I am getting to know a genuine person here, rather than just an anonymous person behind a keyboard. This is important when you are trying to work out if someone is going to be on your wavelength when it comes to book tastes. She is also a huge supporter of other bloggers and active member of the blogging community and I would highly recommend her blog as one that avid book lovers should be following. She has access to all the good stuff! Make sure you check out her blog here.

Trap by Lilja Sigurdardottir is available now in paperback here, along with the preceding title, Snare, which you can get by following this link. The final book in the trilogy, Cage, will be published on 17 October and you can pre-order it here.

 

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder #BookReview (@TimothyDSnyder) @TheBodleyHead @MMFlint #politics #nonfiction #brexit #OnTyranny #Fahrenheit11/9

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History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and rejected reason in favour of myth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances.

History can familiarise, and it can warn. Today, we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. But when the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny.

Now is a good time to do so.

Over the weekend, the Irishman and I watched Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, charting the 2016 US Presidential election campaign and how the presidency of Donald Trump came about (I know what you are thinking, what wild party animals we are!) The documentary featured a gentleman named Timothy Snyder as one of the commentators, who was identified as ‘the author of On Tyranny.’ Since I found his comments in the documentary interesting, I decided to buy a copy of the book.

It arrived on Monday and I dove in immediately and read it in one sitting. At only 126 pages long, it only took me an hour to get through but, aside from its length, the things that compelled me to read it cover to cover in one sitting, and then read it straight through again the following morning, were the frightening historical lessons contained within the pages which are now scarily relevant to what is going on in the political world today, and which we need to remember and heed in order to avoid ending up in horrifying places we swore we would never go to again. Although this book is primarily drawing parallels between the European political history of the last century and the current situation in America, unfortunately our country is now facing a lot of the same issues.

The basic premise of the book is that, although history does not repeat itself exactly, in times of crisis it can flag up the warning signs that alert us to the fact we are heading down a dangerous path, and provide us with the knowledge and tools to avoid repeating historical mistakes. The book is in a very easy to digest format, with twenty lessons we can learn from twentieth century European political history, followed by a brief explanation of the context and how it may be currently manifesting in our society. Some of these ideas were not new to me, I have seen them mooted in other places during my reading and research over the past four years, but some were and, reading all of them brought together in one place and explained so clearly and concisely, was a hard slap to the face which will make any reader sit up and think, on whichever side of the political divide you find yourself. In the current unsettled and unsettling climate, this can only be a good thing.

I have seen a lot of extremes in political discourse recently, particularly on Twitter, with one side talking about the rise of fascism and the other saying this is arrant nonsense. Whatever stance you take, this book is a valuable read which might make you take a step back and consider the truth of what is actually happening. In this book, the author seeks not to say ‘this is definitely where we are heading,’ but ‘look, THINK, remember, be aware, decide where you stand and take action.’ Prevention is far, far better than the cure that proved necessary in the past. There is a famous quote, ‘eternal vigilance is the price of freedom’ which the author uses in this book. This is true today and, in contrast, apathy and inaction are surely its end.

Given the events of the last week in Parliament, some of the chapters rang with particularly resounding alarm bells. ‘Defend institutions,’ was the first, as we have seen our Parliament battling with the Executive for sovereignty over the Brexit issue and, in the last 24 hours, the independence of the judiciary being attacked. ‘Remember professional ethics’ is another topic that I particularly, as an ex-lawyer who follows a lot of legal accounts on Twitter, have seen being strenuously debated in relation to the Government’s suggestion that they may challenge or disregard the Benn Law passed this week and how members of the legal profession sitting in Government should position themselves if it takes such a step. The pieces of advice regarding critical thinking, being willing to say what you believe rather than following the herd and about using language wisely, gave me pause. The book will make you question who you want to be in the current climate and what you are prepared to stand for. Only by standing out and breaking the status quo can change be effected. How brave are we prepared to be as individuals in defence of our values?

There were a couple of quotes that really stood out to me. “The odd [American] idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens” and ‘The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.” Two similar ideas that, given the controversy that surrounds the electoral spending and social media influencing during the referendum campaign, must make each of us question just how freely our votes are given and how much we are being influenced by people with their own agendas on both sides of the divide.

Is this too dramatic? I don’t know. I, for one, am certainly finding the current situation alarming. It is tempting to hide from the turmoil, assume it will all sort itself out eventually and we can just hide under the covers (literal, metaphorical or book, take your pick) until it does. The message behind this volume is history has shown us repeatedly that this strategy does not work. We have to pay attention and take action or accept that we have stood by while our values are eroded. This book is a wake up call. It really should be mandatory reading, particularly for those in positions of authority. Maybe we should crowdfund a copy being sent to each of our 650 MPs. After all, they have little else to do for the next five weeks.

On Tyranny is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 11/9, featuring Timothy Snyder is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

About the Author

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Timothy Snyder is one of the world’s leading historians of the twentieth century. An expert on eastern Europe and on the Second World War, he has written and edited a number of acclaimed and prize-winning books about twentieth-century European history.

His internationally bestselling Bloodlands won the Hannah Arendt Prize, the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding, and has been translated into thirty-three languages.Black Earth was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the annual prize of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.

He is Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a frequent contributor to newspapers and journals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Connect with Timothy:

Website: http://timothysnyder.org

Twitter: @TimothyDSnyder

Period by Emma Barnett #BookReview (@Emmabarnett) @HQstories @Charlo_Murs #Period #amreading #freereading

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‘Don’t be revolted, lead the revolt – preferably with a grin on your face and a tampon tucked proudly behind your ear.’

Emma loathes her period. Really, she does. But there’s something she loathes even more: not being able to talk about it. Freely, funnily and honestly. Without men and women wrinkling their noses as if she’s pulled her tampon out and offered it as an hors d’oeuvre.

But somehow, despite women having had periods since the dawn of time, we’ve totally clammed up on anything to do with menstruation. Why, oh why, would we rather say ‘Auntie Flo’ than ‘period’? Why, in the 21st century, are periods still seen as icky? Why are we still so ignorant about such a fundamental bodily process?

Now, in Period., Emma draws on female experiences that will make you laugh, weep (and, most probably, squirm), in a fierce and funny rallying cry to smash this ridiculous taboo once and for all.

Because it’s about bloody time.

I have been waiting for this book to come out since I heard the editor, Charlotte Mursell of HQ Stories, raving about it back in March. Once I finally got hold of my copy, I was eager to start, and I raced through it. Odd, you might think, to be so keen to read a book about periods but, as the tag line says, this is the book we have all been waiting for and it’s about bloody time it was written.

Those of a squeamish disposition may want to look away from this post, because it is going to be blunt and revealing.

No, actually don’t, because the whole premise behind this book is that periods are a natural bodily function and we should be talking about them, loudly and proudly, all genders, and that the stigma surrounding periods and the silence that shrouds the topic is inherently unhelpful to everyone, perpetuates a certain level of female oppression and needs to stop.

Sound a bit heavy? Well it isn’t, this book is brash, ballsy and downright hilarious, as well as dealing with the subject openly, honestly and head on and should be read by everyone. As a 47-year-old woman who has almost run the full gamut of the female reproductive cycle from starting through child-bearing to now being perimenopausal, I could relate to a lot of what was being said here, and found myself cheering along, whilst also being shocked by some of the information imparted, enraged by other parts, questioning why I had never thought of some of the issues, laughing out loud in horrified solidarity at people’s embarrassing experiences and finally asking myself if I really was as open about this subject as I always thought or complicit in the silence that surrounds this final taboo topic.

I always think of myself as being fairly honest, very opinionated and not at all squeamish. I am the eldest of four girls, have two daughters and three step-daughters, all either in or rapidly approaching their teens, so periods are something I have been surrounded by almost continuously my entire life and something I have to talk about regularly. In the spirit of honesty encouraged by the book, and to illustrate that I have had to be open about my periods from the beginning, I will share my own ‘starting my period’ story with you.

It happened on my thirteenth birthday. Yes, the actual day itself, heralding in my teens and the start of womanhood at the same time. The only hitch was, I was staying over at my friend Alex’s house for the night and had arrived unprepared. Mortifying. Luckily, Alex and I had been friends a long time and I knew her mother well. She was (I’m sure she still is, I have not seen her for many years) a kind and sensible woman, who didn’t make a fuss but just helped me calmly and quietly, sparing my blushes, an act for which I have ever been grateful. Alex also had an older sister, so her mother had already been through this process and was suitably equipped, much to my relief.

The next morning my grandad died and my parents’ concerns were, understandably, entirely taken up with the fall out of that, so the whole episode went largely unremarked upon by my own family. My highly-anticipated birthday trip to Alton Towers was cancelled and the whole thing did not feel like something to be celebrated. My mother then presented me with a glamorous belt to wear around my waist which went through loops at either end of the massive sanitary towels I was given (the days of sticky fixing, slim towels were way in the future) and not much more was said about the matter. I had crippling cramps throughout my teens, which often made me cry with pain, taught myself how to use tampons and just got on with my life, accepting monthly discomfort as simply something to be endured.

I have tried to be much more open with my own daughters than my mother was with me, talking to them well in advance about what to expect, reacting calmly when my eldest started her periods and encouraging her to talk to me and ask any questions she has about anything to do with her body. I must have done reasonably okay, as she does talk to me, as do my step-daughters, although she does sometimes complain that I am a bit too open about bodily functions. She will probably be horrified by this post if she reads it. Parents are SO embarrassing, aren’t they?

I must admit I have to a degree been guilty of perpetuating the idea that periods are something to be ashamed of by giving her the requisite discreet pouch of sanitary products to take to school. Maybe I should be advising her to walk proudly through the corridors clutching them openly. However, I am not sure at 14 and quite shy, that she is ready to be such a period pioneer and I would not force her to face up to ridicule. We obviously still have a way to go before this topic is one that people of all ages can be open about, and I think the older generation will have to lead the way. This book is definitely a step in the right direction.

You may be thinking, this is all very well and interesting, but is talking about these things quite so bluntly really necessary? Why should I read this book? The answer is absolutely yes. Emma gives many reasons why we need to be more open throughout the book, but one issue really stood out to me as an important reason why we should do away with the shame surrounding periods and anything to do with the female reproductive system, and it is to enable women to speak openly with doctors when they feel something is wrong and to be listened to and taken seriously. I have another personal anecdote that illustrates how important this is.

Several years ago, when I first went back on the Pill after starting a new post-divorce relationship, the tablet the doctor gave me resulted in periods of a duration and severity I had never before experienced in my 27 years (at that point) as a menstruating woman. I knew something was wrong and went back to see the doctor. He (yes, it was a he) told me it was just teething troubles and it would bed down. Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself on a Saturday evening in A&E, having had to leave an evening out with friends because I was soaking through a Super Plus tampon every ten minutes and thought I was haemorrhaging. I have never seen so much blood, even post-childbirth. The A&E doctor gave me a tablet to stop it and told me I had to go back to my GP and insist he change my prescription. He did. We women know our own bodies, we know what is normal for us, we need to listen to them and feel able to talk honestly and forcefully to people when we know something is wrong and we deserve to be listened to and taken seriously. Our instincts are the best way to intercept serious problems at an early stage, and the more open we can be about what is normal for each of us and what is not, the better off we all will be. Emma stresses this point in the book and she is 100% correct.

So, next time I am at the doctors filling my pill prescription, I will be asking why it is necessary for me to bleed once a month (hint, it’s not for my benefit), making sure I think about donating sanitary products when giving to food banks and considering the different circumstances women may be in and how they might feel about their periods when I’m talking about them. This book is eye-opening and thought-provoking and should be read by everyone. I will certainly be passing it around amongst my acquaintances. Baby steps in the right direction.

Period is out now and you can get your copy here.

About the Author

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Emma Barnett is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist. By day, she presents The Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live in which she interviews key figures shaping our times, from the Prime Minister to those who would very much like to be. By night, she presents the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, on BBC Two and hosts Late Night Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.

Emma was named Radio Broadcaster of the Year by the Broadcasting Press Guild for her agenda-setting interviews. Previously, she was the Women’s Editor at The Telegraph. She now writes a weekly agony aunt column, ‘Tough Love’, in the Sunday Times Magazine and is a proud patron of Smart Works. Period is her first book.

Connect with Emma:

Twitter: @Emmabarnett

The Chase BookFest with Phillipa Ashley & Kim Nash @PhillipaAshley @KimTheBookworm #authors #BookFest #September #Event #CannockChase #Staffordshire #Readers #Writers

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Authors Phillipa Ashley and Kim Nash have joined forces with the Museum of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, to create a book festival where book lovers are invited to meet some of the UK’s most popular authors.

The Chase BookFest will be held at the Museum of Cannock Chase, Valley Road, Hednesford on Saturday 21 September 2019.

The event is Cannock Chase’s first book festival devoted to women’s popular fiction and thrillers. It has attracted a host of star names including Milly Johnson, Cathy Bramley, Miranda Dickinson, Iona Grey, Nicola May, Mark Edwards and many more best-selling and award-winning popular novelists. 

Readers will be able to enjoy author readings and join in question and answer sessions and discussions with favourite writers from the local area and further afield.

They can even have tea with an author by booking onto ‘Tea and Conversation’ audiences with Sunday Times best sellers Milly Johnson in conversation with Cathy Bramley, Romantic Novel Awards winner Iona Grey, best-selling crime thriller writer K.L. Slater and number one best-selling novelist Mark Edwards.

A pop-up Waterstones book shop will be on site for the day along with a variety of book and craft stalls and a unique book-themed ‘Yarnbombing’ display outside. 

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Bestselling author Phillipa Ashley said: “The support for previous events shows how much popular fiction is loved by readers.  We’re thrilled that the Museum has been so supportive of this event and of fiction in general.” 

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Author and Head of Publicity at publisher Bookouture, Kim Nash said: “We’ve been so lucky to get so many amazing authors on board and would love to thank them all for being so enthusiastic about the festival.’ 

Lee Bellingham, Museum Services Manager for Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, said: “The museum has been hosting very popular ‘Meet the Author’ events for some time now, and along with local authors Phillipa Ashley, Kim Nash and the book loving members of staff, we thought it would be lovely to have a book festival here. We are thrilled to be the venue for the first ever Chase BookFest.

Events like this showcase the museum not just as a home for local history, but as a community venue for arts and cultural activities. We look forward to welcoming authors from around the country to Cannock Chase for the day.”

The day runs 10am until 4pm with tickets available for £3 by calling the museum on 01543 877 666. Tea and Conversation with an author costs £5 and includes tea or coffee and cake, and Q&A Panels cost £3.  Don’t miss the chance to meet your favourite author, book in advance to avoid disappointment.   Please see the museum Facebook page and website, museumofcannockchase.org, for timetables and start planning your BookFest!

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An Elegant Solution by Anne Atkins #BookReview #BlogTour (@anne_atkins) @malcolmdown @LoveBooksGroup #AnElegantSolution #LoveBooksTours

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When someone mentions the City of Cambridge you probably think of an iconic building, its four corners stretching out of the once medieval mud and into the arms of everlasting heaven, its white limestone yearning into eternity… and without even knowing exactly what ephemeral joys or permanent wonders the vision brings to mind, it s a safe bet that the one thought which doesn t occur to you is that the Chapel might not be there by Christmas.

Theo (Theophilus Ambrose Fitzwilliam Wedderburn to his friends) is a Junior Research Fellow in Number Theory. Prompted by a supervisee to demonstrate how to trace the provenance of bitcoins, Theo happens across a shocking revelation, with embarrassing ramifications for the whole University. Meanwhile he is being stalked unseen by someone from his childhood. To his annoyance, Theo falls for a cheap con… and discovers a horror set not only to rock the very seat of power itself but to change the face of Cambridge and its beautifully iconic image for ever.

I am thrilled to be one of the blogs opening up the tour for An Elegant Solution by Anne Atkins today. Huge thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially, and to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for my place on the tour.

This is one of those very rare and delightful books that come out of nowhere and take you by surprise by being something totally different to what you expected and affecting you in ways you never saw coming. I’ll be honest, the reason I signed up for this blog tour was purely because I have an odd obsession with books set in and around universities, which was sparked in my youth by reading Dorothy L. Sayer’s Gaudy Nightstill one of my favourite book of all time. I had no real idea what to expect from the story,  and what actually appeared between the covers of this book was a beautiful revelation.

This wasn’t immediately apparent when I started the book. In fact, I started it twice because the opening chapter did not grip me the first time around. However, on my second attempt I read a little further and I had never been so glad that I persisted with a book because, once I got into it, I was gripped, charmed and profoundly moved by the characters, the story, the setting and the underlying themes of this book in a way that I never saw coming and that has stayed with me long after I closed the back cover. I have actually never read anything quite like it in the way it blends the plot, which could be something out of a flashy thriller, with a deeply poetic and affecting characterisation of living with autism and a developing relationship, none of which ends how you expect. I can’t repeat enough just how much this book surprised and delighted me, possibly more than anything else I have read this year.

If, like me, you are drawn to pick up this book because of the setting of Cambridge University, you will not be disappointed. The author does a wonderful job of immersing the reader in the feel and life of the city and the hallowed halls of the University. It gives the academic voyeur a tantalising peek into the world of this esteemed institution and its esoteric rituals, a world that most of us will never experience outside the pages of a novel. She makes the city and the university central to the book, so that the delicious descriptions of that world and environs are not awkwardly and unnecessarily tagged on to the plot, dragging it down, but are essential to its workings. It is very cleverly and seamlessly done and allowed me to revel in the setting without being pulled from the story.

I did worry to begin with that the plot itself was not only a little outlandish, but that it was also going to be too complicated for me to follow, as someone who knows very little about cryptocurrency and cares even less. I was very wrong on this front. The author does a great job of making sure that there is not too much technical information in the book and, what is there, is just enough and clearly explained to enable the bitcoin dunce to follow what is going on and understand how it propels the story. The book is very unusual in the way that the thriller aspect of the book felt more like the sub-plot, there to showcase the characters and the personal issues that beset them, rather than the main point of the book. A thriller for people who want a bit more food for the brain. Weirdly, despite the grand finale, it also didn’t feel like an OTT, bang bang thriller, with things whamming at you constantly. As I said earlier, I have never read anything quite like it, which is no mean feat given the volume of books and the wide genres I read in.

All of that being said, the characters are what drive this book and what made me fall irrevocably in love with it. The two main players, Theo and Charlotte, were fully rounded people that I immediately fell for and I was rooting for from the beginning. The exploration of Charlotte’s complex family dynamic and Theo’s autism were done so lovingly and sympathetically that they may me feel deeply involved in their development and I felt genuine joy and pain for both of them as their stories unravelled. The characterisation is done with great understanding, and gave a very different view of autism to me than I have read before. It is obviously an issue very personal and important to the author, and this came across in the pages. At the end of the book, I was yearning for a particular outcome and, whilst it did not end as expected, it left me feeling happy and hopeful … and making up my own ideas for what happens to the characters after the narration ends. The fact I cared enough to spend a deal of time thinking about this is testament to how much the story touched me.

It is not often these days that a book comes out of nowhere and really surprises me and touches my soul. This is one of those books. I cannot tell you how much I loved it, I hope it reached the wide audience it deserves.

An Elegant Solution is out now in ebook and physical formats and you can get a copy here.

To get some alternative reviews of the book from my marvellous blogger colleagues, please visit the blogs listed below:

elegant-solution

About the Author

Anne Atkins

Anne Atkins is a well-known English broadcaster and journalist, and regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. She took an involuntary, and long, break from writing fiction when her son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, their daughter repeatedly hospitalized with a severe illness, and finally the family was made homeless.. Thankfully those dark days are now behind her and she and her husband Shaun along with some of her children now live happily in Bedford, England.

Connect with Anne:

Website: http://anneatkins.co.uk

Twitter: @anne_atkins

Love Books Group Tours (1)