in which I share some things I've read and liked.

Hey there blogosphere! What's that you say, you need something to read? Then this could be the blog post for you, because in a fit of boredom whilst The Boy was at the cinema this week, I took to the iPad (my preferred blogging device) and made a little post of books I have read recently and rather enjoyed.

Hang on a little minute first though. Have you read The Bookshop Book? No? Okay, but why? Go away and read that and come back to me.


Excellent. Then let's go.

Firstly, Cassandra Parkin’s The Summer We All Ran Away needs to take it's perfect self and disappear, frankly. It's unfair for it to hang around being that good and making the other books jealous. Seriously, this is such a good concept that has been flawlessly executed. I could not put this down and I am so excited for Cassandra's new novel, published next year.

When nineteen year old Davey finds himself drunk, beaten and alone, he is rescued by the oddly-assorted inhabitants of an abandoned and beautiful house in the West Country. Their only condition for letting him join them is that he asks them no questions.
More than thirty years ago in that same house, burned-out rock star Jack Laker writes a ground-breaking comeback album, and abandons the girl who saved his life to embark on a doomed and passionate romance with a young actress. His attempt to escape his destructive lifestyle leads to deceit, debauchery and even murder.
As Davey and his fellow housemate Priss try to uncover the secrets of the house's inhabitants, both past and present, it becomes clear that the five strangers have all been drawn there by the events and the music of that long-ago summer.

I finally got my hands on the second of Kat Zhang’s Hybrid Chronicles, Once We Were. (And did a small happy dance.) I pretty much devoured the first in this trilogy, so I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me so long to get round to book two, other than somehow, like a crazy person, I thought it wasn’t published yet. Book three was released in September of this year, so if you’ve not read any of these yet, then you can read all three in one go. You’ll want to.

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

The Shock of the Fall won Costa Book of the Year in 2013. I can see why. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, – it’s a long long way from being that, but it’s a good read. It’s well written and well paced and I am a fan of the back and forth stream-of-consciousness type writing style. The book tells Matt’s story – he’s a 19 year old boy with schizophrenia struggling to come to terms with the death of his brother Simon on a camping holiday ten years earlier. It’s honest and perceptive and dotted with just exactly the type of humour a book like this needs. S’good.The story is told by Matt Homes, a 19-year-old schizophrenic haunted by the death of his Downs syndrome brother, Simon, ten years earlier when the boys were on a family camping holiday. A tragic accident or did Matt kill his brother? 


The Girl With All the Gifts. Read this book. That’s all. Read it. It’s excellent.

I am such a sucker for pretty words and this book is full of them. It’s beautiful and intriguing and completely gripping.  E. Lockhart asks that people who have read the book don’t go all spoilery on the asses of folks that haven’t:

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

And so spoilers here there are none. Sorry. I shall just say that this is a book that you should read

I love Khaled Hosseini so much. So very much so I was practically giddy with excitement when I came to read And The Mountains Echoed. It didn’t disappoint. The thing about Hosseini is that his books are wonderful and devastating in a billion different ways. He explores relationships so well, he travels through time so well, and he makes you empathise with his characters, even the ones you don’t care for all that much. The imagery is so vivid, each character so well developed and the threads of the narratives so intricate they take your breath away.  

...a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

It was in the tender, slightly panicky way he spoke these words that I knew my father was a wounded person, that his love for me was as true, vast, and permanent as the sky, and that it would always bear down upon me. It was the kind of love that, sooner or later, cornered you into a choice; either you tore free or you stayed and withstood its rigor even as it squeezed you into something smaller than yourself.

Two Boys Kissing

I found Levithan thanks to Will Grayson, Will Grayson which he wrote with John Green. I read Every Day, which I liked a whole lot, and then Jen (being a love) sent me this (which I need to send back actually, but anyway, not a thing anybody needs to worry about but me…) and again, I liked it a whole lot. Like Every Day, and like Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Two Boys Kissing is honest and thought-provoking and relevant. It’s everything a good YA novel should be.  

Seventeen-year-olds Craig and Harry are trying to set a new Guinness World Record for kissing.

Around them, Ryan and Avery are falling in love, Neil and Peter are falling out of love, and Cooper might be somewhere, but he is also, dangerously, nowhere.

Narrated, Greek-chorus style, by the generation of gay men lost to AIDS, this novel is a thematic companion to David Levithan’s groundbreaking Boy Meets Boy, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2013.

in which I do (some more) incoherent flailing

I cannot even with this book, I swear. I cannot. All ability to do anything other than flail around and key smash has deserted me, perhaps forever.

This book is my happy place, my spirit animal, my patronus. If a person could have a book as a daemon this would be mine. It's all that's good in the world.

Bookshops are (among other things) safe places, Jen says in the epigraph. I believe that to be true. Do you want to know another thing though? This book is a safe place. It's just...I CANNOT EVEN.

Try harder, Josephine, please.

Ok, so, you know when you love a thing and you have always loved a thing and you don't know how to articulate, quite, just how much or why you love the thing and then someone comes along and expresses all that you love about the thing perfectly for you, and suddenly it all makes sense? Suddenly you have an answer right there for whenever somebody asks you why you love the thing so much? That's what this book is. It’s the answer to why I love the thing.

Why do you love books Josephine, what exactly is it about bookshops? Ask me, go on. The answer lies within The Bookshop Book. I dare you to read this book and not want to visit every place that lives in its pages. I dare you to not fall harder into bookshop love than you are already. I dare you to not want to hug Jen hard enough to hurt for finally writing the book you've waited your whole life to read. I dare you. I double dare you.

This book is, simply put, the why’s and the wherefore’s and the how's of what it means to love books and bookshops.

It's a journey and an exploration; it's an adventure and an education; and it's…it’s a goddamn love story alright. It's a love story about one girl and her books and bookshops, and if you love bookshops even a tiny bit then it's also a love story about you.

I’d thought it would be one of those books I’d sort of dip in and out of you know, a bit here and a snippet there, and it is that – it lives on my coffee table and dipping in and out of it is exactly what I do, but it’s also a really fantabulous read. I picked it up and I curled up onder my patchwork quilt with my coffee in my Alice mug and I just could not put it down. Jen's love for what she writes about shines through every word, and she has this inimitable style, this way of writing that's just like having a conversation with her: this book is so well researched and Jen passes that information along with an enthusiasm that you can't help but be swept up in, you want to go to all these places and meet all these people and read all these books and do ALL THE THINGS. And it's just, it's a glorious book ok. I love it so damn hard.

I love it. So damn hard.

Author Visit: Jen Campbell Talks Bookshops.

If you’re a regular visitor around these parts (or follow me on Twitter) then you’ll likely be aware that I have been extraordinarily excited about Jen Campbell’s marvellous new book ‘The Bookshop Book’ – released yesterday and published by Constable (Little, Brown).
The official book for the Books Are My Bag campaign, The Bookshop Book is a love letter to books and bookshops the world over:

Every bookshop has a story.

We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops.

Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France. Meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains. Meet the bookshop in Canada that’s invented the world’s first antiquarian book vending machine.
And that’s just the beginning.

From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine,
The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole).
authors involved in the book include Brian Aldiss, David Almond, Bill Bryson, Tracy Chevalier, Cornelia Funke, Audrey Niffenegger, Ian Rankin, Jacqueline Wilson and more.

Jen, who graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in English Literature and now lives and works in London, is not only an all round ‘lovely person’ (and one of my faves) but also an award winning poet and short story writer. Her first book, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops was a Sunday Times bestseller. She’s dropped by my little corner of the blogosphere today to chat about All Things Bookshop. So, make a coffee, grab a slice of cake and pull up a seat.

Jen! Thank-you for stopping by.  Quickly quickly, before we start – let’s get warmed up with a quick fire round!

Coffee, tea or…?

Tea. Always tea.
English breakfast. Earl Grey. Lady Grey. Or Teapig’s Winter Red Tea. Thanks.

Favourite Film?

Shakespeare in Love or Spirited Away

Favourite book?

Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll (I can’t believe you made me choose!) (Jo: sorry not sorry!)

Summer or winter?

Winter! (Though preferably autumn. Boots and cardigans and log fires, yes please.)

Favourite Colour?

Mint green.

Last thing you ate?

Marmite on toast. (Jo: this is why I like you so much – your excellent food choices.)

Favourite holiday destination?

Somewhere windswept by the sea.

Ok, and now that’s done, onto the nitty gritty!

Where did the idea for the bookshop book come from?

I think it was born out of my ‘Bookshop Spotlights’ blog posts that I started in 2012, featuring bookshops I really liked. But really it was fueled after ‘Weird Things...’ was published and I spent a lot of time doing events in wonderful bookshops and talking to inspiring booksellers. I’d written about the weird things that happen to booksellers, but I hadn’t written about the magical feeling of bookshops and how books affect people. I hadn’t spoken about the history and wonder of ‘houses for stories’ (which is what one of my youngest customers calls bookshops, and I love it.) My editor said: ‘Think about how you would write about that. How you’d capture it. Then send me something.’ So I did.

What is your earliest bookshop memory?

We didn’t have independent bookshops where I grew up, we just had a Waterstones. I think that’s why I fell for bookshops so hard when I moved to Edinburgh to do my degree. Suddenly there was so much to explore, and so many books to lose myself in. Oh and the smell. I’ll never forget the smell of Till’s bookshop in Edinburgh. The smell of vanilla and dust and stories from long ago.

Tell us about the best bookshop you've visited?

Oh, no. I can’t do that. I’ve answered the question about my favourite book, and that was painful enough! ;) (Jo: hmmmm, ok. I shall let you off. This time.)

And the one that your research has you dream-planning a visit to?

Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires. (and hundreds more!)

If time and money were no object what would your perfect bookshop be like?

It would be a bit of a labyrinth. Maybe even an actual maze. A treasure hunt for books. I’d have it in the middle of a forest, with fairy lights everywhere.

The Bookshop Book is more than just your love letter to bookshops everywhere; it's that of booksellers and writers too. When gathering your research which book selling story made your heart sing? Feel free to give us a snippet

I love the history of Shakespeare and Co in Paris, and how its original owner Sylvia Beach stood up to the Nazis, refusing to serve them so that they threatened to burn her shop to the ground. I love Sarah Henshaw, who runs a bookshop on a narrowboat in the UK and is planning to bravely/crazily cross the Channel in it. I love that there’s a bookshop in Kenya that also sells cows. I love Fjaerland in Norway, which is a Book Town near the largest glacier in mainland Europe. It has bookshops in old buildings and sheds, and in the winter the booksellers use kick-sleds to transport books across the snow. I love... oh, I really could go on forever. You’re just going to have to read it.

I'm going to be reading every word, naturally, but the minute I open it, which author interview should I skip to first: which sticks on your mind, and how did it feel to sit down and talk books with people whose work  you love?

It was overwhelming, and I was so amazed that so many wonderful authors were willing to speak to me. Every author I spoke to was so passionate about books and reading (but then, I would hope they would be!). I can’t pick out one interview over another, but one moment I remember vividly is this. I met up with Audrey Niffenegger when she was in London and we had tea and cake and talked about our favourite places. She was describing Roger, a bookseller who she cares about deeply, who ran a bookshop in Chicago called Bookman’s Alley. She was talking about the souls of bookshops, and how she’s written about it in her graphic novel Library series: about these wonderful characters who come to a bookshop that’s closing down and collect its soul so that it can live on forever. And as she was speaking about that, and about Roger closing down his bookshop due to ill-health and how she wants to capture him in the stories she writes... I realised that she was crying. And it hit me full on, this realisation - which I did already know but had perhaps forgotten slightly - of the ties that bind us not only to the people we care about, but also to literature and the people who protect it with us. Of our need to tell stories, and share them so that they become part of our history - in the hope that the people and places we write about can live on and on, and never disappear.

I am in LOVE with the cover art. Tell us about how that came to be?

My editor and I had a discussion about how we’d like the cover to look (bright colours, text-based) and it was designed by a delightful chap called Leo Nickolls who has produced so many beautiful things (go look and see!). I’m so happy with it.

The Bookshop Book was a mammoth task and one that you should be proud of, how different was it to Weird Things?

Oh, so very different! ‘Weird Things...’ were books recording things I’ve heard and things I’ve said... it was a case of going through notes and sorting through memories. The Bookshop Book required massive amounts of research (though all of it rewarding) and it’s eight times the size of ‘Weird Things...’, word-count-wise, too. It’s a whole new beast.

What has been the best and worst thing about the whole experience?

The worst thing was the deadline (isn’t it always)? That’s both stressful and exhilarating - but obviously necessary! The best thing? All the wonderful people I’ve met. Also, after I handed in the manuscript, I posted a picture of the dedication page on the ‘Weird Things...’ Facebook page, and I got a message from The Book Nook in Texas with a photograph of their shop front. They’d loved the dedication so much that they’d written it across the shop’s window. That made me a bit happy-teary, I must say. (

Tell us about how you write? Is the room quiet or do you play music? Do you like your dog at your feet? What works best?

Oh the room is quiet. So quiet. Unless I’m writing poetry, then I listen to Dustin O’Hallaran. Loki (Jack Russell)’s sleeping in a corner. Penny-slow (tortoise) is normally trying to eat my feet.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk?

Nothing odd on my desk, I’m afraid. Just my computer and my phone. (And a half-eaten Crunchie bar, yum.) (Jo: I have Sebastian from The Little Mermaid on my desk. & a triangular highlighter that is almost impossible to use….)

What's next for you?

The novel. It’s eating my soul. I like it. (Jo: *happy dance*)

What authors have caught your interest lately, and why?

Donna Tartt (I’m so late to The Secret History party), Ruth Ozeki (such beautiful writing, and I’m all over novels featuring Japan) and have you seen the blurb for Kirsty Logan’s debut novel. Have you? Oh my.

What do you wish you got asked in these interviews, but never do?

What is your latest bookish discovery? (Today’s answer is The Book Ferret)

And because I always want to know the answer to this: what are you reading right now?

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun and Black Country by Liz Berry. 

If you’d like a signed copy of The Bookshop Book then you can order one directly from Jen, over here.  You can also find her hanging out at various places on the internet:

Patrick Ness: More Than This

“A book… it’s a world all on its own too. A world made of words, where you live for a while.”

Anyone remember when I discovered John Green and feel hard into an author!crush that I am yet to recover from?

It’s happened again.

I have discovered – once again late to the party – Patrick Ness.

Last week I read More Than This, which, well I kind of want to tell you that there’s no other book like it, because I think that might be true. Read it then, for no other reason than that.

I read it because the front cover of my copy says that John Green is telling me to read it, and I love John Green. You should read it because it really is excellent.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . . .

It’s so good. So good. The kind of good that grabs hold of you from the word go and refuses to let go and had me sat there again, at 31 years old and marvelling at the quality of fiction out there for young adults right now. Seriously though. Were there books this good when I was stealing Danielle Steel off my Mum’s shelf and reading under the covers? (Not that I will ever admit to that if anyone asks.)
There’s a romance that breaks your heart (and kind of made me want to jump for joy because God, don’t we need more books out there where the sexuality of the character isn’t a thing that defines him, or drives the story; where it’s just a thing that is) and a story that breaks your brain. I want to use the word mindfuckery: every time you think you know where Ness is going, he changes direction and leaves you reeling.  You know what, I’m saying it: this book is a mindfuck. & I loved it. It’s hard to review, actually, because if I tell you too much then I’ll spoil it yet somehow saying ‘the beauty lies in the not having a damn clue what is even happening, just read it,’ feels like a cop out.
What I will tell you is that this is a book that will make you feel all the things. It will make you think and it will make you question and it will make you forget to eat and also sleep and it will make you feel all the things.

It’s a book that is equal parts plot and heart. It works for me I think, because I am always so much more compelled by tales that explore grief more than those that explore joy and you never get to relax into this story, it’s never easy, or happy.  You’re always on the edge because you just don’t know what’s coming next and throughout all the twists and turns, there’s this constant sense of an emotional connection: a weight in your chest, a knot in your tummy. A tear, in fact, in your eye.

“Real life is only ever just real life. Messy. What it means depends on how you look at it. The only thing you’ve got to do is find a way to live there.”

Also, the meta. THE META. Seth is so aware of how stories are told and how stories work and the way he interprets what he sees and how he feels; the questions he asks, even of himself, it’s just so damn clever, and it makes you question things in the same way: Seth’s journey of confusion and despair and fear and acceptance is a journey you find yourself going on with him and the question he’s asking are the questions you’re asking, about this book and every book and your life and it really is all very cleverly done. Things happen and Seth questions them, which makes you question them and this constant questioning makes the story less about the plot and more about the characters. 

It’s a book whose success lies in its excellent structure, its stunning narrative and its emotional core. It’s….I don’t know. I am just doing the typing of the words without even really knowing what point I’m even trying to make.  This review is a bad review. This book is a hard book to review.

Now that I’ve read it though, I want to get my hands on every word Patrick Ness has ever written and I want to devour each and every one of them. & I want to go out for coffee with him, if coffee is a thing he drinks, and I want to ask him just exactly how his brain works, because this book? It’s something special.