Camembert, parsnips and sherry – we ask, what is your go-to Christmas dish?

Camembert, parsnips and sherry – we ask, what is your go-to Christmas dish?

Can you believe that it is December already? Here at Bookends HQ, we are MORE than ready for all the joys that the Christmas season brings – including the food! Next up in our Bookends Christmas author series, we’ve asked, what is your go-to Christmas dish?

Jill Mansell, author of This Could Change Everything

Coconut Lindt Lindors, amazing roast potatoes and a glass of sherry. Maybe not all at the same time. Then again, now that I’ve written it down it’s starting to sound rather delicious.

Beth Good, author of Winter Without You

Roast parsnips, for sure. I love them crispy brown on the outside and soft in the middle, and I don’t know why but they taste better at Christmas than any other day of the year.

Holly Bourne, author of How Do You Like Me Now?

My friends and I always have a girls’ night in on Christmas Eve, where we eat one baked Camembert each. Then we feel so ill afterwards that we can’t sleep when we get home, and spend actual Christmas day sleep-deprived, sweaty, groaning and messaging one another: “We’ve got to stop doing this each year. One cheese between three is enough.” But it’s sort of an unbreakable ritual now.

Cate Woods, author of More Than a Feeling

Nigella’s Christmas book introduced me to an Italian liqueur called Tuaca, which she winningly describes as panettone in a glass. A splash of this mixed with Prosecco is the perfect accompaniment to Christmas brunch: it’s like the beverage equivalent of ‘Good King Wenceslas’

This Could Change Everything coverWinter Without YouHow do you like me now coverMore than a feeling cover

 

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Read an extract from Friends like These: the unmissable new psychological thriller

Read an extract from Friends like These: the unmissable new psychological thriller

Read an exclusive Friends like These extract: as addictive as Friend Request, as gripping as The Girl Before.

Friends Like These banner

Lizzie hasn’t thought much about Becca since the accident.

She remembers the blood though. She can see how you wouldn’t be the same again after something like that. No one was surprised when Becca didn’t come back to work.

And Lizzie’s different these days too. She used to be the one in the shadows, stalking Becca’s perfect life online, but a lot has changed since then.

So when Becca’s ex shows up on Tinder, Lizzie swipes right. Why not? Doesn’t she deserve a chance at happiness as well?

Becca will have moved on. There’s no way she’d even remember Lizzie, no way she could know anything about her life – is there?

She’s about to find out that with a friend like Becca, she doesn’t need enemies…

See what readers are saying about FRIENDS LIKE THESE

‘a rollercoaster ride of plot twists and turns that will leave you breathless.’ NetGalley Reviewer

‘a cleverly written and well plotted thriller’ Goodreads Reviewer

I struggled to put this book down and read it at every opportunity.’ NetGalley Reviewer

‘this is a readable thriller packed with characters many of us will undoubtedly relate to.’ Amazon Reviewer

‘an incredibly modern and accessible psychological thriller.’ NetGalley Reviewer

Read the extract here: Friends like These extract.

Learn more about Friends like These here.

Paris in Springtime…

Paris in Springtime…

What could be more perfect, ahead of Valentine’s Day, than an insider guide to Spring in the most romantic city in the world? These Dividing Walls author Fran Cooper shares her favourite spots.
Is there anything more romantic than the idea of Paris in the spring? Those days when it’s warm enough to walk around without a jacket; when the trees along the Seine are in leaf and bloom, and birdsong mingles with the accordion music being played on the bridges. Of course, this vision doesn’t quite take into account the proliferation of dog’s mess underfoot, or the crazed Parisian motorcyclists who roar gleefully past you, or the thousands of tourists clamouring for the most picturesque photograph. That was the Paris I tried to capture in These Dividing Walls – one that’s beautiful, yes, but messy, complicated and troubled, too. But that being said, there’s no denying that Paris has its moments of simply breathtaking beauty, and for my money many of those creep up on you on an idyllic spring afternoon when you suddenly spot the city at its most charming.
I imagine plenty of Parisians are dreaming of those spring days right now, as they cope with some of the fiercest snow storms of recent years. So for anyone who might want to take a little séjour (whether real or imaginary) in Paris this spring, here are some of the places I most enjoyed visiting during my three years in the city…
The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of the Left Bank’s jewels. It combines everything you might possibly want in a park – lush green lawns, an ornamental lake for racing toy boats, formal flower gardens, tree-lined walkways, and groups of extremely professional chess players competing on the park’s free boards. This is the perfect place to while away a springtime afternoon, not least because Parisian parks have dozens of reclining garden chairs at your disposal – perfect for settling in with a friend or a book!

On the other side of the river, escape the bustling medieval streets of the Marais in the gardens of the Archives Nationales. The archives are housed in the Hôtel de Soubise, a private home dating back to 1375 and largely remodelled in the eighteenth century, but the gardens are open to all and provide a little oasis of calm amidst one of Paris’s most fun and chaotic quarters. If you’re looking for something a little grander, take an ice cream to the Place des Vosges or the gardens of the Palais Royal – both have plenty of tree-shaded benches on which to people watch.

If you’re willing to venture a little further afield, take metro line 10 to its last stop and marvel at the gardens of the Musée Albert Kahn – a hidden gem of a museum dedicated to the early days of photography. English, French and Japanese gardens are a riot of colour, especially at this time of year when the cherry trees are in blossom. And of course, if you’re willing to leave the city for a day, nothing beats the magic of Monet’s gardens and waterlily pond at Giverny, which are every bit as beautiful as his paintings.

These Dividing Walls is out now in paperback.

Writing your life into fiction

Writing your life into fiction

Emily Phillips, the author of new release TRYING pitched the story of trying for a baby and failing in the pub – here she dissects injecting real life into fiction.

The moment I typed THE END, I cried. I was bereft. No matter that I had been channeling parts of my life into the themes and situations in TRYING – in those intense five months of writing, it had <become> my life.

Writing it had been in equal parts a cathartic outpouring of the fertility challenges we had been facing and a really great distraction. I had allowed myself to vent through creating ridiculous situations, drawing up any bitterness and twisting it into dark humour, and injecting real pain and tears into medical tests and let downs I had been going through.

And it worked. For those months, I was so fertility obsessed that I didn’t obsess over our real lack of progress in having a baby. I banked on the fact that in not having a conventional ending, that we might get our happy ending at home. That by the end of the first draft, no, the second, still no, the final draft, we would be on the way to having a baby that would neatly pop out at the same time as the book. But no.

The book is out this week and I’m still not pregnant. And, like some characters in the book, we’re now undergoing IVF. I didn’t want that to be the journey for Olivia and Felix in those pages – I wanted them to really consider their family in an open-ended unexplained situation as we did at the beginning – to know what it is to really want something.

But now, we’re letting science take over and I have such a better understanding of what I was writing in some of those sections. The research for the book also armed me for some of the obstacles ahead – both physically and mentally, so in a way it is now life, imitating art, imitating life.

Probably the hardest thing to do is write sex scenes. Simply attempting to keep them from being toe-curling in their rendering I hope helped me separate it from reality – I had to be thinking outside of individual experience and focusing on universal crap sex. And I’ve had plenty of comments from people who have said it rings true!

It’s tricky blurring the boundaries when you’re writing something with a personal bent, but the characters and situations are all far from reality. I’ve been through some of those medical probes, and I think we’ve all had some of those let downs, but it was important for me to throw in some real curve balls for the characters to battle against. Temptation, dissatisfaction, anger – those are things I’ve managed to steer clear of so far. It’s definitely the extreme bits where you can stretch the creative muscles that are the most fun to write.

TRYING by Emily Phillips is published in hardback, ebook and audio on 25th January.

Bookends authors share their Christmas Day Routine

Bookends authors share their Christmas Day Routine

As homes up and down the country wake up to put the turkey in the oven and open their stockings, our Bookends authors share their Christmas Day routines.

Carmel Harrington, author of Cold Feet: The Lost Years

We awake early, courtesy of our two children – Amelia (7) and Nate (6). They scramble into bed with Roger and I and then we all run to see if Santa has been. Santa always leaves his presents in our living room, in big red sacks. Roger and I watch the children open their Santa gifts, then we all have breakfast. Fortified by my first cup of tea of the day, we sit down and open our family presents, which are stacked under our tree. We normally do Christmas lunch at home, but this year we are going to my parents, as are my siblings and their families. I predict laughter, food, drink, love and a lot fun.

Chrissie Manby, author of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club

The past few years have seen a lot of changes for my family and so I suppose we’re finding new Christmas traditions.  My sister and mum usually cook though.  If they do let me into the kitchen, they only worry that I’m going to undercook the sprouts.  Apparently, they need to go on around Bonfire Night.

Fiona Mitchell, author of The Maid’s Room

We open presents, put on Christmas music, then at around 10am, the eating starts with crisps. I spend the afternoon in the kitchen cooking which involves dropping things and burning my wrists in a bid to fit everything in the oven. Somewhere along the line there’ll be games including Uno. Then we’ll flop and watch a David Walliams drama, followed by a film.

Stef Penney, author of Under a Pole Star

Depends where we are, but it will include present opening (after a token walk and lunch), and Christmas Eve involves a ritual reading aloud of Astrid Lindgren Christmas stories. No television allowed.

Della Parker, author of The Reading Group

Smoked salmon and scrambled egg for breakfast. A walk in the forest. (I got my car stuck in the mud one year). Christmas presents after dinner which is at 2.00 pm. Then we often play board games or Charades if we can move. Amazingly, boringly ordinary.

Emily Phillips, author of Trying

I haven’t had a definitive Christmas routine since I got together with my husband Charlie and we got to rotating between being at one of our families’ houses for Christmas morning (and present opening – all of that hastily fashioned wrapping in the recycling!). What we do always seem to do is have a massively gluttonous lunch at one house and then go on to the others’ for the same again for dinner. I need to add some stretchier waistbands on Santa’s list.

Ikigai: The Japanese Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life

Ikigai: The Japanese Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life

Move over, Hygge – it’s all about Ikigai now.

Written by Japanese expert Ken Mogi, The Little Book of Ikigai is a fascinating insight into the miracle that is the Japanese people’s record-breaking long life and astonishing good health.

Ken Mogi

WHAT IS IKIGAI?

It is extraordinary that Japanese men’s longevity ranks 4th in the world, while Japanese women’s ranks 2nd. But perhaps this comes as no surprise when you know that the Japanese understanding of ikigai is embedded in their daily life and in absolutely everything that they do. In their professional careers, in their relationships with family members, in the hobbies they cultivate so meticulously. The Japanese talk about ikigai as ‘a reason to get up in the morning’. It has been described as a miracle recipe for living a longer and happier life, as well as a motivational philosophy that helps you engage enthusiastically with your professional and personal commitments, whether you are a cleaner of the famous Shinkansen bullet train, the mother of a newborn child or a Michelin-starred sushi chef.

iki” (to live) and “gai” (reason)

WHY DO WE NEED IKIGAI?

A key study published in 2008 by Japanese researchers identified ikigai as a major factor for promoting longevity, especially by reducing cardiovascular disease, if not cancer. Other studies have also linked it to good health, happiness, and community-building.

The fact that this concept plays an important role in people’s wellbeing throughout the country is a testimony to its importance in the Japanese way of life.

Ikigai comes naturally to many Japanese, it is something that is in the air in the island nation. The Little Book of Ikigai helps Westerners rationalise and discover their own ikigai.

Ken Mogi answers the following key questions:

• How do the cognitive factors that constitute ikigai contribute to people’s good health and longevity?
• How does ikigai contribute to happiness?
• Does ikigai lead to a more successful life, even economic returns?
• How do you find ikigai?

In The Little Book of Ikigai, Ken Mogi explores his country’s fascinating traditional values, and in the process offers an insider’s view immersed in the richness of Japanese culture, while intertwining contemporary science, combining insights from a scientific, psychological and cognitive approach.

HOW DO THE JAPANESE PRACTICE IKIGAI?

Some people find ikigai in pursuing professional careers. Others in supporting other family members. It may be as formal and structured as a craftsperson creating a beautiful lacquered rice bowl, or it may be as simple as packing a school lunch box for grandchildren. Although some people find it in their work, others, whose job is not conducive to ikigai fulfillment, find it in pastimes and hobbies, for Japanese people are great hobbyists. Some find pleasure in traditional pursuits such as the nurturing
of bonsai trees, creation of complex origami structures, and engagement in centuries-old styles of dance. Others are avid collectors of various objects, or find themselves immersed in baking bread or making jam. They might
also find joy in trainspotting or interacting with nature. Certain characteristics unite them all:

1) Getting the small things right

Do not focus on success itself, but only on getting the important basics correct. Meticulous attention to the details in daily chores – getting the small things right – can be the key to success. Ikigai is in essence modest and small scale.

2) Taking the time you need

The process is not something to be hurried through to get to the result as soon as possible. The result is the product of getting the process right.

3) Enjoying a sense of achievement

Doing small things properly and seeing a task through to completion is what made the Japanese work ethos famous. particularly in high-end precision engineering and technology.

4) Establishing a sense of mutual support and community

The Japanese have historically placed a high value on serving for others, sometimes to the point of selfsacrifice, from the samurais in pre-modernization Japan to contemporary salarymen. There is a deep connection between ikigai and aiming for a harmonious relationship with others, fostering a sense of mutual support and community.

Ikigai Venn Diagram

The Little Book of Ikigai is available for pre-order now: http://amzn.to/2vxnJ1G

Graham Norton answers readers' questions

Graham Norton answers readers' questions

Graham Norton’s masterful, bestselling debut novel Holding, is now out in paperback. Some lucky reading groups from all over the country were given the chance to ask Graham a question about the novel, and here are his answers!

Did you plan to set your novel in a sleepy Irish village?

B’n’B Book Club, Dudley, West Midlands

Being “Graham Norton off the TV” is bit of a problem when it comes to writing a novel. I didn’t want to get in the way of the reader and the story. I deliberately decided not to set the novel in the world of media or even London. There are no gay characters and the situation isn’t really played for laughs. At the same time it was important to write about what I know and because my life is rather odd it wasn’t long before I realised that growing up in rural Ireland would provide one of the few settings that I knew very well and might have broad appeal.

 

You are hosting a dinner party in Duneen, which three characters from Holding would you invite and why?

BIG Lottery Book Club, Birmingham, West Midlands

Great question. Brid would have to be there because she’d bring the wine and the laughs. Susan because she has all the stories and gossip and Mrs. O’Driscoll from the shop because I have a feeling she might be very good fun if she let her hair down. She’d also be handy for fact checking Susan’s stories!

 

The title of the novel Holding: is this to do with clinging to the past or holding onto hope?  Are these two sides of the same coin and is the author trying to show the negative and positive aspects of each?

Shadforth WI Book Club, Durham

The title refers to all sorts of holding. A parcel of land is a small holding, waiting is called holding and then of course the more obvious meanings; holding on to things, being held by another person, or being held back. Something that really interests me is how some people get stuck in a moment from their lives. I’m very much of the mindset where you should get over things and yet I fully accept some people can’t. The discovery of the human remains gives the characters a chance to kick stat their lives. Some take it and others don’t.

 

Are you going to write more fiction in a similar vein?

Hayes End Library Reading Group, Hayes, Middlesex

I always said that I wanted to write a novel but once I actually commited to finish one I was filled with trepadation. What if I couldn’t or what if I could but hated the process? Had I just given myself the longest, most difficult homework assignment I’d ever had? Happily the process of writing Holding was one of the most enjoyable experiences in my working life. I loved the time I spent in Duneen with the people who live there. So much of my life requires meetings and collaboration with other people, so sitting in a room alone making all the decisions by myself was a wonderful release. The next book is a strange, almost gothic love story set in rural Ireland. At the moment I’m just plotting the story and fleshing out the characters so it may end up being something else entirely when I actually start writing it. There are no rules and that is what makes it all so fun and terrifying at the same time.

Holding

 

My Perfect Weekend…with Marina Fiorato

My Perfect Weekend…with Marina Fiorato

The weekend is on the horizon and to celebrate we caught up with Marina Fiorato, author of the dark, sumptuous and gothic Crimson and Bone, which is out today, to find out how she imagines her perfect weekend.

Long lie-in or up with the lark?

If I’m in the middle of writing, I’ll get up early. If not, lie-in with a box set.

Full English or a super-food smoothie?

Fry up at weekends. Smoothies in the week.

City break or an escape to the country?

City break. Venice please!

Bookshop browsing or exploring a library?

Library. Older the better. Duke Humfrey in Oxford is my favourite.

Re-reading an old favourite or trying something different?

Can’t beat a re-read. I’ve revisited Brideshead more times than Charles Ryder.

Cocktails or coffee?

I can’t drink caffeine, and even if I could, it would still be cocktails!

Traditional Sunday roast or grand kitchen experimenting?

Sunday roast. I can’t cook them though so I rely on my husband or the pub.

Action-packed or total relaxation?

I’m quite busy at the moment so I like to relax when I can.

Time to write or time to step away from the computer?

Depends how close the deadline is!

Are you off to the latest exhibition or getting arty yourself?

Exhibitions. London is stuffed with great ones, so I take advantage.

Radio 2 or Radio 4?

Radio 4. All day.

The feel of shiny-new book or the smell of a dog-earned classic?

A dog-eared classic. I like books to be well-loved.

Dressing up to the nines or jeans & wellies?

The scruffier the better.

A trip to the cinema or a DVD on the sofa?

Cinema. You can’t beat the full-on experience.

#MadGirl

#MadGirl

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week we thought we’d share a snippet of Bryony Gordon reading from her bestselling book Mad Girl

‘It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it.  It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl  is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.’

If you liked this, why not get Shrill with Lindy West

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