Bookends Halloween – Jenny Blackhurst

Bookends Halloween – Jenny Blackhurst

To celebrate Halloween 2019, we will be asking some of our authors some spooky questions! First up is Jenny Blackhurst, author of The Night She Died and Someone is Lying

What are your favourite spooky reads? 

Am I allowed to say The Foster Child? No? Okay, in that case when I was younger I was a big Masterton fan, Walkers, in particular was horrifying as a teen. The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy freaked me out.

What book-to-film adaptations do you watch to get yourself in the Halloween mood?

You can’t go wrong with Stephen King, and with the second part of IT out in time for Halloween I’ve recently watched the first part to get myself ready. Silence of the Lambs is another favourite. I love horror, Halloween is my favourite time of year and I’ve started watching scary movies already. I don’t even care that it’s not a book-to-film adaptation I’m going to say it. Hocus Pocus is the best.

Of the characters in your book, who would you choose to trick, and who deserves a treat?

I feel like Susan Webster from How I Lost You deserves a treat, I really put that poor woman through an emotional wringer. As for a trick, that’s harder to choose because I actually like the majority of my characters! I rarely have a true bad guy so I guess it would have to be Jack, also from How I Lost You because he was a genuinely bad person for no apparent reason.

What would the main character in your book dress up as for Halloween?

There is actually a Halloween party in Someone is Lying! Karla and Marcus are ring masters, Miranda is a witch, Peter and Mary-Beth King go as Beetlejuice and the Grim Reaper and Felicity is Harley Quinn. Alex is completely inappropriate, as always, and doesn’t deserve a mention.

What will you be reading on 31st October?

This Halloween I’ll be reading The Taking of Annie Thorne by CJ Tudor because it sounds deliciously creepy.

Someone is Lying is out now in ebook and will be out in paperback on 14th November. Get your copy here.

Fair Play: is your to-do list endless?

Fair Play: is your to-do list endless?

In Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, she urges women to evaluate the distribution of responsibilities in their families and relationships. Chosen as a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Fair Play seeks to show you that there is a way to share the mental load, rebalance your relationship and transform your life. In this extract from the book, Eve explores the dilemma of never ending to-do lists.

WHY CAN’T WE EVER SEEM TO GET AHEAD OF OUR TO-DO LISTS?

The more I talked with my girlfriends who’d entered motherhood, I realized we were all having trouble getting it all done— and what’s more, we were all having trouble identifying exactly what it was we were doing. Why were we all so busy?

   It turns out this phenomenon has a name—many names, actually. One of the most popular is “invisible work”: invisible because it may be unseen and unrecognized by our partners, and also because those of us who do it may not count or even acknowledge it as work . . . despite the fact that it costs us real time and significant mental and physical effort with no sick days or benefits. No doubt you, too, have read articles describing this “mental load,” “second shift,” and the “emotional labor” that falls disproportionately on women, along with the toll this domestic work takes on our lives more broadly.

   But what are we really talking about here? Sociologists Arlene Kaplan Daniels and Arlie Hochschild started giving us the language to talk about these deeply felt (but largely unarticulated) inequities in the 1980s, and since then, plenty of intelligent women have advanced the conversation and the popular vernacular.

Mental Load: The never-ending mental to-do list you keep for all your family tasks. Though not as heavy as a bag of rocks, the constant details banging around in your mind nonetheless weigh you down. Mental “overload” creates stress, fatigue, and often forgetfulness. Where did I put the damn car keys?

Second Shift: This is the domestic work you do long before you go to work and often even longer after you get home from the office. It’s an unpaid shift that starts early and goes late, and you can’t afford to lose it. Every day’s a double shift when you have two kids’ lunches to prep!

Emotional Labor: This term has evolved organically in pop culture to include the “maintaining relationships” and “managing emotions” work like calling your inlaws, sending thank-you notes, buying teacher gifts, and soothing meltdowns in Target. This work of caring can be some of the most exhausting labor (akin to the day your child was born), but providing middle-of-the-night comfort is what makes you a wonderful and dependable parent. It’s OK, Mama’s here.

Invisible Work: This is the behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps a home and family running smoothly, although it’s hardly noticed and is rarely valued. The toothpaste never runs out. You’re welcome.   In an effort to “physicalize” this heavy burden carried by women yesterday and today, I began collecting every article I could find on the subject of domestic inequality. After amassing 250 articles (and counting) from newspapers, magazines, and online sources, it was disturbing to recognize that, since women began writing about this in the 1940s, we haven’t made enough progress in sharing the burden with our partners or finding an answer to this problem that men could buy into. Same sh*t, different decade.

   According to the most contemporary research, women still do the bulk of childcare and domestic work, even in two-earner families in which both parents work full-time and sometimes even when the mother earns more than her partner. As if reflecting a mirror onto my life, I stumbled upon another study revealing that men who stood up for their fair share of housework prior to having kids significantly cut back their contributions after kids—by up to five hours a week.

   Wow, even the good guys?

   As I considered the vast research and literature, past and present, bravely naming and articulating this problem, I thought: OK, we know there’s an imbalance. But where is the manual with a practical and sustainable solution? Sure, it’s helpful to understand the breadth of the condition and its historic underpinnings, and it felt gratifying to know that I was not alone in this predicament and that plenty of women had been fed up and writing about it for decades. But what can we do to change it? I became determined to find out.

Fair Play is available to buy now.

Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

“A hands-on, real talk guide for navigating the hot-button issues that so many families struggle with” – Reese Witherspoon

Do you find yourself taking on the lion’s share of all the thankless, invisible but time-consuming work in the home? FAIR PLAY is the first book that shows you that there can be a different way: a way to get more done, with less fuss, in a way that feels more balanced.

Eve Rodsky was tired of always being the one who has to remember to buy loo roll, or to book the family’s dentist appointments, or to send the thank you cards – all while working full time. So Eve decided to do what she does every day as an organisational management consultant: Organise. She conducted original research with more than 500 couples to figure out WHAT the invisible work in a family actually is and HOW to get it done effectively and all in a way that makes relationships even stronger. FAIR PLAY identifies the 100 main tasks in any relationship, and then divides those tasks fairly (not necessarily equally) so that both parties contribute their fair share.

If we don’t learn to rebalance our home life and reclaim some time to develop the skills and passions that keep us unique, then we risk losing our right to be interesting, not just to our partner, but to ourselves. Getting this right isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for a happy, lasting partnership. Part how-to guide for couples, part modern relationship manifesto, FAIR PLAY offers an innovative system with a completely original lexicon to discuss how relationships actually work … and how we can make them work better.

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

‘For anyone who enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy or EducatedUnfollow is an essential text’ – Louis Theroux

It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’.

In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.

Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself.

As featured on the BBC documentaries, ‘The Most Hated Family in America’ and ‘Surviving America’s Most Hated Family.’

Sophie Claire on the inspiration behind The Christmas Holiday!

Sophie Claire on the inspiration behind The Christmas Holiday!

To celebrate the paperback publication of The Christmas Holiday, author Sophie Claire shares the inspiration behind her charming, heartwarming festive read!

I’m often asked what inspires my books and in this case it was a very sad but true story which has haunted me since childhood. It happened to one of the male teachers at my primary school and I was ten years old at the time. He was the most popular teacher in the school and everyone, boys and girls alike, adored him; I was no exception. He was friendly, good-natured, and always telling jokes and making us laugh. Then one day his wife became ill and died.

She was only 27, and I’m guessing he was around the same age himself. He disappeared on sick leave for a few months, and when he came back to school the change was shocking: he was a shadow of himself. He’d lost weight, there were shadows under his eyes and he never smiled any more. Never.

His grief was so visible that it really marked me. And, being so young, this was my first experience of grief and how it can break someone. I left that school shortly after and, although I always hoped that he’d rebuild his life and find love again, I can’t be sure what happened to him.

I suppose this mystery fuelled my imagination, and in my book, The Christmas Holiday, I wanted to explore how a grieving widower, still in love with his wife and clinging to her memory, might move on and find love again. Enter my fictional hero, Jake Hartwood.

Once I had Jake, I needed a heroine, and I thought it would be fun to make her his polar opposite: a cheerful, chatty optimist. At the beginning of my story Jake is broken, and I knew Evie’s happy outlook would really grate on him. The only problem was, he’d go to any length to avoid her, so how would I get them together? I conjured up a snowstorm which forced them to spend the night together in a freezing old house with only a log fire and Jake’s faithful Dalmatian for company. Now they had to talk to each other, and I had great fun watching the sparks fly!

But Jake and Evie had a lot more in common than they first realised and much to teach each other, so drawing out the romance between them was a delight. I like to share my love of Provence in my books, and since they were both dreading Christmas they made plans to escape there – together.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I hope you’ll enjoy following their journey – and perhaps fall in love with Jake too along the way.

Sophie x

The Christmas Holiday is out now in paperback and eBook!

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

If you were moved by The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris or The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, this book is for you. A searing page-turner of hope, family secrets and a love to defy all odds from bestselling Kelly Rimmer, inspired by the author’s family history.

‘Fans of The Nightingale and Lilac Girls will adore The Things We Cannot Say‘ Pam Jenoff

‘Simply amazing book, so moving I couldn’t put it down. A book that will remain in my heart for many years to come *****’ A reader

‘Captivating. I am in awe of this story *****’ A reader

‘I have never ever been so deeply moved by a book…the most amazing love story of hope and survival during the Nazi occupation of Poland… i just didn’t want it to end *****’ A reader

It begins with the discovery of a tattered photo, a letter and a tiny leather shoe…

World War Two, Poland. Alina and Tomasz are childhood sweethearts. The night before he leaves for college, Tomasz proposes marriage. But when their village falls to the Nazis, Alina doesn’t know if Tomasz is alive or dead.

2019. Life changed beyond recognition for Alice when her son, Eddie, was born with autism spectrum disorder. She must do everything to support him, but at what cost to her family? When her cherished grandmother is hospitalised, a hidden box of mementoes reveals a tattered photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe and a letter. Her grandmother begs Alice to return to Poland to see what became of those she held dearest. In Poland, separated from her family, Alice begins to uncover the story her grandmother is so desperate to tell, and discovers a love that bloomed in the winter of 1942. As a painful family history comes to light, will the struggles of the past and present finally reach a heartbreaking resolution?

Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain

Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain

‘A national treasure’ Independent

‘She’s baked her way into our hearts and hasn’t stopped since’ Prima

‘One of our favourite ever Bake Off winners’ Sunday Mirror

FUNNY, HEART-WRENCHING, GENEROUS AND TRUE, IN FINDING MY VOICE NADIYA HUSSAIN SHARES THE UNFORGETTABLE MEMORIES AND EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE MADE HER THE WOMAN SHE IS TODAY.

‘I am writing this for everyone who was told no. ‘No, you are not rich enough. No, that is not credible. No, you can’t. No, you won’t. No, you are not allowed. No, that is not appropriate.

I was told, “No, you do not belong.”

Finally, I am saying, “Yes, I do.”‘

From the moment Nadiya Hussain was born, she has been questioning her role in life. But the irony is, she never wanted to be a trailblazer. She just wanted to follow a ‘normal’ path. But life kept telling her ‘you can’t’.

And so she found her own way, beyond anything she dared to dream . . .

In this wise, witty, open-hearted book, Nadiya lets us into her life and, for the first time, shares the memories and experiences that have shaped her into the woman and role-model that she is today, alongside her personal recipes and the stories they tell.

The Long Flight Home by A.L. Hlad

The Long Flight Home by A.L. Hlad

A moving, masterfully written story of love and sacrifice, perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Dear Mrs Bird.

Hope flies behind enemy lines…

September 1940. As enemy fighter planes blacken the sky, Susan Shepherd finds comfort at her home in Epping Forest, where she and her grandfather raise homing pigeons. Of all Susan’s birds, it’s Duchess who is the most extraordinary, and the two share a special bond.

Thousands of miles away, Ollie Evans, a young American pilot decides to travel to Britain to join the Royal Air Force. But Ollie doesn’t expect his quest to bring him instead to the National Pigeon Service – a covert new operation involving homing pigeons – and to Susan.

The National Pigeon Service has a dangerous mission to air-drop hundreds of pigeons into German-occupied France. Despite their growing friendship Ollie and Susan must soon be parted – but will Duchess’s devotion and sense of duty prove to be an unexpected lifeline between them?

Based on true events, The Long Flight Home is an uplifting and timeless wartime novel, that reminds us how, in times of hardship, hope is never truly lost.

Hurrah for Gin: Reluctant Adult by Katie Kirby

Hurrah for Gin: Reluctant Adult by Katie Kirby

Do you overthink everything?
Do you struggle to say no to people?
Are you paying membership for a gym you never go to?
Do group chat politics make you want to throw your phone under a bus?
Are you overjoyed when people cancel plans so that you can sit at home in your pyjama bottoms eating Coco pops for dinner?

If so, this book is for you!

We spend our childhoods wanting to a be adults and, when we get there, find ourselves lost under a pile of life admin, half completed to-do lists and anti-ageing face creams that promise to make you look as good as Natalie Imbruglia.

In her new book, Katie Kirby (Hurrah for Gin) pinpoints with painful precision just how overwhelming life can be when you’re all grown up. From the worry spiral that keeps you up at 3AM, to maintaining a professional aura when you can’t stand other people – this is for everyone struggling to stay afloat.

Honest, relatable, funny and containing no useful advice whatsoever, take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not just you, we’re all as f*cked as each other.