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Book Review: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

This thrilling, fast-paced and utterly absorbing work of fantasy fiction is ostensibly aimed at the young adult market, but with its dark, complex themes, witty dialogue and page-turning twists, it will appeal to many adult readers too.

9781780880693The story’s central character is the eponymous James Clyde, an 11-year-old orphan who dotes on his grandfather Wilmore – a caring but somewhat mysterious character who appears to be hiding a dark past.

When adventurous James and his two friends Ben and Mary Forester stay at Wilmore’s grand but spooky mansion one winter, their lives change in ways they could never have imagined.

The children have grown up hearing tales of the legendary land of Orchestra and its three diamonds – said to have immense powers. Legend holds that each diamond grants the holder a power or gift of their choosing, and that the three diamonds together grant immortality.

The children soon discover that the land is more than mythical, and that they are about to become part of its story. Wilmore is in fact the holder of one of the much-coveted diamonds, and a sinister ‘Man in Black’ will stop at nothing to get it back.

When James discovers his grandfather dying, having been attacked, his world turns upside down. His grandfather gives James the diamond, tells him to use its powers to escape the deadly Man in Black and the murderous winged beasts that flock around him, and James and his friends take – literally – a leap of faith which  transports them to the magical world.

In Orchestra, the two kingdoms of Zara and Darken have been locked in bitter battle ever since an act of grave betrayal was carried out by a knight of Zara – a shadowy character called Gilbert who turns out to be the Man in Black himself. The evil Queen of Darken wants all three of the diamonds, and power over the entire kingdom.

James is heralded as a returning saviour, and discovers he is heir to the throne of Zara, and a skilled swordsman to boot. What’s more, it is his destiny to restore peace to the embattled land

In his debut novel, author Colm McElwain has created a captivating world where good and evil do battle, but he has avoided a simplistic approach. Even principal ‘baddie’ the Man in Black convinces himself he is acting in the greater good when he betrays his kingdom.

The characters of the book are complex rather than caricatured and one-dimensional, with their back stories revealed throughout the course of the book, and we see how the lure of the powerful, beautiful diamonds has brought death and disharmony to Orchestra.

James and his friends face some truly terrifying moments – and ultimately learn to trust each other’s strength and resilience even when their situation appears impossible. The witty banter between the young characters adds to the appeal of the book, and brings a touch of the real world into this fantasy land of magical Orchins, dark Dakotas and dazzling diamonds with the power to grant eternal life.

James proves himself a worthy successor to the throne, and in a touching moment, is reunited with the mother he believed was dead. The dark forces have been defeated for now, but the ending leaves readers desperate to know what happens next for adventurous James and his loyal friends.

The author has drawn on influences from literary greats such as Roald Dahl, C.S Lewis and Tolkien (and comparisons with J.K Rowling are perhaps inevitable), but the book is refreshing in that, alongside the fantasy elements, it reads like a thriller. There are moments of great suspense and some outright scary sections that make it a real page-turner.

The book is cinematic in feel, too. The rich descriptions make it easy to imagine the events unfolding on the big screen, and the pages are alive with the sense of swashbuckling adventure that makes films such as Indiana Jones and Back to the Future such enjoyable romps.

The theme of enduring ties and the power of friendship are emphasised in the novel, which delivers a strong moral message about loyalty and ‘doing the right thing’, as well as about the power of self-belief.

It’s a fantastically absorbing fusion between the day-to-day dramas of teenage life and out-of-this-world adventures. Think The Goonies meets Lord of the Rings and you’ll be somewhere close.

The conclusion paves the way for a sequel and those drawn into Orchestra’s spell will certainly welcome an encore.

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain is out now, priced £7.99 in paperback and £1.99 as an eBook. Find out more at

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November Book Festival Update: Richmond upon Thames Literature Festival and Taunton Literary Festival

Richmond upon Thames Literature Festival 4-27 November 2016

Richmond upon Thames Literature Festival is celebrating its 25th birthday in style, hosting a stellar line up of some of today’s most thought-provoking novelists, including Sebastian Barry (in conversation with Erica Wagner), Margaret Drabble, Kate Summerscale and Sarah Moss.


Consider your November entertainment sorted with events embracing everything from vampires and gangsters, through to spies, royal princes and the Mitford sisters. Science journalist Jo Marchant will open our eyes to mind-body medicine, whilst best-selling biographer Anne Sebba will discuss the fascinating lives and loves of women in Paris in the 1940s. Weekend events for families include historian Lucy Worsley introducing her first children’s book, storytelling and drawing with Axel Scheffler, and a podcast workshop with spoken word artist Polarbear.


As well as this we have writing masterclasses, a poetry evening, film night and performances of Shakespeare’s A Merchant of Venice, all held in some of Richmond upon Thames’ most inspiring spaces.


For tickets and further information contact:



Taunton Literary Festival 5-26 November


The sixth Taunton Literary Festival includes an eclectic mix ranging from Lord Owen on the 1940’s British cabinet, Salley Vickers on her new book Cousins, renowned psychologist Raj Persaud on stalking, Keggie Carew on her unconventional father, Philip Eade on Evelyn Waugh interviewed by his grandson Alexander, Graham Fawcett on W H Auden, Prof. Michael Smith on Shackleton, Luke Dormehl on robots, Gary Cox on Jean Paul Sartre, a talk on the changing position of the church in society with Linda Woodhead and Andrew Brown, a moving account of a POW surviving the ‘Burma Railway put together from letters by his daughter, an account of theatres around the country by Mick Escott, a talk on Lady Jane Grey by Nicola Tallis, on the founder of the Royal Air Force by Russell Miller, cheats and deceits in the natural world with Martin Stevens, all things gothic with Nick Groom, consciousness with Susan Blackmore, agriculture with Richard Soffe and Wild Pony Whispering with Dawn Westcott. In addition, the Taunton Thespians will be performing key scenes from Shakespeare, there will be free children’s events, writing workshops and a bookbinding workshop. As usual there will also be some last minute additions so please look out for any updates to the programme.


The festival is organised and marketed by Brendon Books, Taunton’s independent bookseller, making it a unique event with an eye on overlooked corners of the publishing market, as well as the big names and bestsellers.

We believe that independent bookshops have an important role to play in the local community, which is why Taunton Literary Festival was born, in 2010. To fully support the festival’s place in the heart of Taunton’s community, Brendon Books has become a Community Interest Company. All profits from Brendon Books go towards projects, such as Taunton Literary Festival, which has grown to become a highlight on Somerset’s cultural calendar.

Taunton Literary Festival brings writers from around the world to Taunton to share stories and engage the community in the world of literature. Readers can meet their favourite authors or explore new subjects and ideas through workshops, readings and question and answer sessions at the end of each event.

Celebrating new and established writers, Taunton Literary Festival invites you into the worlds of history, poetry, science, nature, fiction and politics. Each year, the festival grows to include more exciting and inspiring events, attracting writers, comedians, politicians and artists, who want to meet you and share their passions.

For tickets visit, telephone: 01823 337742 or visit Brendon Books, Bath Place, Taunton TA1 4ER. Email@

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Mid-October eNewsletter

We know that it’s October and you’re thinking pumpkins and fireworks but, if there are two things we love at Lovereading (apart from “reading” … obviously) it’s having something to look forward to and feeling ahead of the game… So read on for October highlights and our first hint of… Christmas.

In Brief – October Highlights

Some of our favourites this month:

A Suitable Lie by Michael J. Malone – A challenging, clever humdinger of a novel, brimming with unsettling darkness in a world all too recognisable. Riveting! Also Shaun Hill’s Salt is Essential. A foodie book with a difference that deserves to be read from beginning to end because you will end up a better cook. Rick Stein is a huge fan as well – ‘a book you need to own; a lifetime’s hard work in the kitchen distilled into sensible brevity. Shaun is a great cook.’


Prize Winning Crime

The highly coveted CWA Daggers have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over fifty years. The John Creasey New Blood Dagger is awarded to an outstanding first novel and has launched the careers of some of your favourite crime-fictionistas! The 2016 New Blood winner is the striking literary thriller Dodgers by Bill Beverly, which also won the Goldsboro Gold Dagger as well (practically unheard of!) and we strongly encourage you to knife your way to the front of the queue, by clicking here to visit our special category with all the winners.

The (Lost) World According to Malachy Tallack

Malachy Tallack has already taken us 60 Degrees North on an immersive, original and dazzling journey around the world. With writing as engaging and wild as the landscape and communities he encountered, it’s a travel memoir like no other. Now he’s back with The Un-Discovered Islands, a look at forgotten worlds. The places once added to maps through imagination, superstition and plain human error. These are the mysterious lands that time has eroded. A gloriously illustrated atlas of legend and wonder and a must-have for the curious. Learn more.

No Small Thing! Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

It takes a writer of enormous skill to handle humanity’s big issues. Luckily Jodi Picoult has that skill in spades! Her latest title Small Great Things is a harrowing, thought-provoking examination of racism in America today. Her existing fans will love it and it will no doubt garner many new ones as we see it as a ‘must read’ this autumn. One of our Reader Reviewers described it as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century’. Read an exclusive pre-publication extract here.

Christmas is Just Around the Corner

Okay, it’s not exactly ‘around the corner’, but it is on the horizon! If you’re the sort of person who likes to start idea hunting early, then why not let us help you choose some great, lasting gifts to bulk out their stockings this year? Take a look at the bookshelf below to get some early inspiration or visit the website for lots more ideas.

E-asy Reading! – eBooks of the month

Stay in touch with the latest digital delights for all eReaders with our definitive list of the best in eBooks. Books like:

Hidden Killers by Lynda La Plante – Dark truths in innocent places. An atmospheric and engagingly real police drama from the BAFTA award-winning Queen of Crime.

You Made It! – Arts and Crafts Category

Fancy turning your hand to a spot of sewing, knitting, drawing or sticking or you know someone who would? Our Arts and Crafts category is for all you creative types! Amaze your friends and family, or just do it for yourself: there’s something for everyone. A word of warning. You WILL get hooked. Find your next hobby right here!

Group On! – Reading Groups

Our labour of love, this. A selection of talking-point titles to enjoy with friends! This month, try:

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland – Dark Ages drama in a plague-ridden west country. Chilling community tale of trust, fear and survival.

An Autumn Selection of Independent Authors

People can be sceptical about the quality of self-published work but increasingly new authors are using this route to get a title in print and larger imprints actively look for the best of them to add to their lists. So, as we did earlier in the year, we have compiled a selection of our favourites from independently published authors who sat down, got their literary juices going and made it happen. So, why not have a look today and perhaps you might decide you have a book in you too?

We Love Reading … Nordic Noir!

Why does such amazing crime-writing originate in Scandinavian countries? Who knows? Someone probably got to the bottom of it and then found themselves drowned in a transport crate in the North Sea. Whatever the answer, we’ve all gone a little bit mad for what they call ‘Nordic Noir’ or ‘Scandi Crime’.

We love it so much we’ve created a special category celebrating the very best of writers of the wonderful, cold realism of Scandinavian crime fiction. Take a deep breath and click here.

Late Autumn Book Festivals

Fight off those winter blues with the promise of heart-warming tales and heated debates at Harrogate History Festival (20-23 October), Bridport Literary Festival (6-13 November) and a chance to win tickets to hear Frank Gardner at Petworth Literary Weekend (2-6 November).

And that’s October at Lovereading! We’ll be back next month with more top title tips to get you through the winter months and maybe just a few ideas for – wait for it – Christmas! See you soon.

P.S. Remember to look out for the Man Booker winner on 25 October.

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Penelope Fitzgerald’s son-in-law and literary executor discusses her legacy to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth

Penelope Fitzgerald’s novels are now recognised as classics of the English literature of last century, and they have the added advantage of being extremely reader friendly: funny, witty, charming, quirky, beautiful and wise.

Her books are short but full of fascinating detail and observation. For those of us who were close to her, it sometimes seemed like she knew everything and had the gift of presenting it concisely, entertainingly, modestly. You can easily become addicted to her world (it’s at once peculiarly English and thoroughly European) and want to read and re-read all ten of her works of fiction, but a good place to start is with her first two novels: The Bookshop, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Offshore, which won.

The Bookshop is perhaps her best-loved book. Its enduring appeal comes from the much-shared dream of opening a shop, vividly described with much period ’50s detail, and from its depiction of the struggle of one idealistic woman against the ruthless powers that be. The film adaptation comes out next year, with Emily Mortimer as Florence, Bill Nighy as Mr Brundish, her champion, and Patricia Clarkson as the villainous Mrs Gamart.

Offshore is her most personal work. At first it appears to be a lyrical, mildly satirical watercolour study of houseboat dwellers on the Thames at Chelsea Reach, but we soon realise that this life is a temporary condition for these characters who are all in some way exiled from the land. Their troubles – Nenna is fighting to save her marriage, Maurice to evade his criminal connections – soon propel the novel forward to a dramatic conclusion.

One of the elements these two books have in common with Penelope Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Blue Flower is her convincing and delightful child characters, some of the most memorable in fiction. The blue flower is the symbol of Romantic yearning,
and this is the story of the love of the German poet, Novalis, a genius in embryo, for the inspiring but deeply ordinary Sophie, his ‘wisdom’. Published when Penelope was 78, and her last novel, it is extraordinarily young and vibrant, dealing with a large cast of brothers and sisters and friends full of passion and idealism, just embarking on their lives.
If you haven’t read Penelope Fitzgerald yet, you have a treat in store.

Terence Dooley

Penelope Fitzgerald’s son-in-law and literary executor

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Gritty, gruesome and with a deft touch of dark humour, this horror-thriller from prolific British novelist David Jester pulls no punches, but will keep strong-stomached readers hooked from start to finish.


This-Is-How-You-Die-FCThe book is the second in Jester’s six-book deal with respected international publishers Skyhorse, and is a dramatic contrast to its predecessor, the laugh-out-loud comedy An Idiot in Love.


This Is How You Die is an ultra-dark tale recounted from the twisted perspective of a serial killer, who prides himself on ‘hating everybody equally’.


But although it is filled with graphic descriptions of gory killings, Jester’s trademark dry humour is still in evidence in the scathing way that anti-hero protagonist, Herman, describes the people and the situations that surround him.


It’s also an adept piece of social commentary about the situations that can drive mentally ill, emotionally disturbed young people to commit unspeakable acts of violence. Herman is a bullied, socially inept teenager, who feels that he can only earn respect by instilling fear.


The book opens with teenage Herman being brutally beaten up by the school bullies – an act which has become as much part of his day-to-day life as brushing his teeth in the morning.


He seethes with rage at the bullies, and fantasises about enacting bloody revenge. His hero is ‘the Butcher’ – a serial killer who carves up his victims after their demise.


An antisocial teenager with no friends, and whose mother has apparently abandoned him, Herman is an emotionless, obsessive and hate-filled teen who barely bothers to disguise the scorn he feels for every other human on the planet.


He is being raised by his father – an ultra-polite, much-loved member of the local community who he has witnessed exploding into fits of violent rage at home, and who dies in the early pages of the novel.


Unmoved by his father’s death and entrusted to the care of a hard-drinking uncle, Herman makes a bloody discovery – his ‘pillar of the community’ father was none other than The Butcher. Rather than being horrified, Herman is thrilled – and vows to continue his father’s ‘work’.


Herman’s initial attempts to carry on the Butcher’s legacy are met with frustration, and he realises that he should focus on carving out his own killer identity.


Embarking on a killing spree that goes beyond anything even The Butcher could have carried out, Herman assumes a new identity and lives in the shadows, waiting to strike again.


But while many people assume Herman’s vengeful killing spree ended after taking the ultimate revenge against the schoolmates that mocked him mercilessly, Homicide Detective Lester Keats believes he is still active.


A gruesome game of cat-and-mouse begins, and the page-turning pace does not let up. There’s a spectacularly theatrical piece-de-resistance from Herman as the book draws towards its conclusion which particularly riveted this reviewer’s attention.


By no means a book for the faint of heart, This Is How You Die is a clever horror-thriller that goes beyond OTT gratuitous violence (although there is plenty of that, for those who enjoy splatter).


It’s a masterly examination of the mind of a twisted serial killer akin to disturbing yet critically acclaimed ‘80s film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer


Anti-social, manipulative and utterly callous, teenage killer Herman is an utterly redeemless horror figures that readers will find hard to forget.


This Is How You Die by David Jester (Skyhorse) is available now, priced £11.99 in paperback and £7.59 as an eBook. Visit

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There’s something altogether annoying about entrepreneurs. They make everything look easy and turn every opportunity, however unlikely, into a profit.


Unbarred-Innovation-fc-low-resIt’s rare for those who’ve made it to honestly share the secrets of their success; most keep their gems of wisdom safely under lock and key – and for good reason.


It means that most self-help books contain more business clichés and hyped-up rags to riches stories than genuinely helpful pointers.


But occasionally an entrepreneur comes along who breaks the Del Boy mold. Mayur Ramgir is one of them.


His new book, Unbarred Innovation: A Pathway to Greatest Discoveries, explains how we – the aspiring everyman – can harness our “inner innovators” to break down barriers and achieve greatness in any given field.


Examples make for easy and welcome reading. Take Post-it Notes, for instance – those square little jot pads with a sticky bit along the top.


They were apparently a terrible flop when they were launched and became a super-brand against all the odds thanks to a name check and rebrand. [They were never meant to be yellow, either…]


But Unbarred Innovation, which received an Honorable Mention in the Non-Fiction Business/Finance category in the 2016 International Book Award Contest, goes one step further than typical books of its ilk by critically examining the rise of its author.


Ramgir shares his own story in candid detail and lifts the lid on how he amassed his own personal fortune. His book also draws on the stories of other great entrepreneurs who found their own pathway to discoveries.


Most of all, Unbarred Innovation is a celebration of discovery, of ambition. It encourages readers to think beyond traditional, closed-in boundaries and overcome self-doubt and societal prejudice.


Think big, bigger and BIGGEST, in other words. The ability to become an innovator is no longer the sole preserve of scientists, engineers and other Oxbridge-trained professionals. Everyone has an “inner innovator” within them that just needs to be freed.


By doing so, you and me have the potential of becoming the next Dyson, the next Branson – even the next Einstein.


This time next year, Rodney, I must just be a real millionaire.


Unbarred Innovation: A Pathway to Greatest Discoveries by Mayur Ramgir is out now priced £5.54 in print and 99p as an eBook. Proceeds of sale go to ZForce, a global charity helping unprivileged children, empowering women across the globe, and arrange health camps across the world for cancer patients and other terminally-ill patients. Visit For more information about Unbarred Innovation visit 

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October eNewsletter

Welcome to October at Lovereading! In the month that saw the radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, this is our “Tour of the Words”! Okay, we’re scraping the pun barrel here, but rest assured our recommendation tips are top drawer, we promise!

For instance, let nostalgia guide you to new horizons as we celebrate 100 years of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and 50 years journeying over the Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys). Read on for these and much more.

Booktober! – Books of the Month

We have a wonderful collection this month and below are a few highlights:

The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home – Fascinating, enduring, the 3rd in the gripping Sea Detective Series. A book as deep and mysterious as the ocean, swimming with undercurrents.

Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop – Delightful, original, beautiful and charming. A uniquely illustrated novel of a journey told in captivating style and inspired by postcards from Greece and a notebook.

The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney – Mesmerising and eloquently emotional novel exposing the complexity of relationships and the truth behind the things left unsaid.

Jo Malone: My Story by Jo Malone –  An intimate insight into the challenges and courage that helped a girl with no qualifications become an icon of the beauty industry. Surprising (it’s scented with her favourite fragrance), enlightening and inspiring!


First Things First! – Debuts of the Month

As always we have scoured the shelves for some first-class, fresh-faced firsts for you to discover:

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra – Chilling, ominous and mind-churning psychological thriller, where identity and destiny are drenched in danger.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – A charming tale of loneliness, bereavement and adventure. ‘A lovely novel which is a sheer delight to read from beginning to end’. (Reader Review).


Linwood Barclay – Author of the Month

Wait a minute. Wasn’t Linwood Barclay Author of the Month in September? Yes, he was. Are you sure that he’s the Author of the Month in October? Yes, we are. Is he THAT good? Yes, he is! Novels, two of them just out, vibrating with spine-chilling suspense, shock and thrilling anticipation. If you are still not sure then find out more here, read an extract or two and make up your own mind.

First Glimpse – Pre-Publication Exclusives

Get your hands on exclusive extracts of top titles before they hit the shelves! Pre-pub exclusives we rate very highly for you this month include:

Hidden Killers by Lynda La Plante – What dark truths hide in innocent corners? An atmospheric and engagingly real police drama from the Queen of Crime.

Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly – ‘An amazing story of love, loyalty, hope and family … a book that everyone who has a family will be able to relate to.’ Reader Review.

Himself by Jess Kidd – A beautiful and darkly comic story of close community secrets and the desperate search for truth and identity.

The Runaway Girl by Casey Watson – Heartfelt and provokes thoughts and feelings about our system of social care and responsibility.

And you can pre-order these ones right now:

Betrayal by Martina Cole – Nail-biting and shattering journey through the complex rules of the Columbian drug trade. Authentic, harrowing and brilliant.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – Big issues beautifully handled. Prejudice, power and humanity. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century’ (Reader Review).

Prizes from the Top ‘Draw’

As always there’s a giddy sense of luck on the site this month, with some FREE prize draws to enter. Win some lovely literary goodies. PLUS! This month you could be skipping away with £20 worth of cinema vouchers and a signed copy of Martina Cole’s latest thriller, Betrayal. Click here for more.

Grimm but Glorious

A gloriously enticing and shiver-inducing read, where sculpture sits as a window into the soul of the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. If you truly know your Grimms, then this book will sing to you, if you don’t then it will make you want to discover the true heart of them. ‘The Singing Bones is knowing, evocative and a truly wonderful read, it’s a book to keep close at hand and dip into again and again.

Maxim’s Must-Reads for October

Crime guru Maxim Jakubowski is on top form with his globe-trotting October selection, covering the widest possible spectrum of the crime genre.

Journey into domestic noir, psychological thrillers, spy stories, Nordic mysteries, historical shenanigans and pre-natal crime detection! Top picks are:

BOOK OF THE MONTH – The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – An outstanding gem of a historical thriller by the writer of The Imitation Game. A thriller with wit, beauty and sparkle and the dazzling portrait of a forgotten world.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Nutshell by Ian McEwan – Possibly the most unusual crime book of the year. A witty and suspenseful story told from inside a mother’s womb.

Finally, 4 titles we would hate you to miss

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October and November Book Festival News. Harrogate History Festival, Bridport Literary Festival, Petworth Literary Weekend

Harrogate History Festival 20-23 October

history-logoNow in its fourth year, delivered by Harrogate International Festivals, giants of the history genre attending include Antony Beevor, Philippa Gregory, Tracy Chevalier, Joe Abercrombie, Nicholas Crane and Paddy Ashdown. The Harrogate History Festival cements Harrogate’s profile as a leading destination for book lovers. It takes place 20-23 October at the Old Swan Hotel.

Antony Beevor is a historian who has transformed the genre and inspired a generation. His history of the battle of Stalingrad catapulted him to international fame in 1998. His latest book Ardennes 1944 – Hitler’s Last Gamble went straight to No 1 on the Sunday Times Bestseller list.

Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring was snapped up by Hollywood, starring Colin Firth, catapulting Chevalier into the literary spotlight. Her latest novel, At the Edge of the Orchard, is a dark, evocative and sweeping story of a pioneer family in Ohio, 1838.

Another author who seduced the big screen with The Other Boleyn Girl – which starred Mark Rylance, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson – is Philippa Gregory. She returns to the Tudors, with her latest novel Three Sisters, Three Queens.

Sticking with the Tudors, Tracy Borman’s The Private Lives of the Tudors, looks at their domestic secrets, including intimate body servants who accompanied the king to the privy.

Special Guest, Paddy Ashdown, is one of the most respected political figures, and a former Royal Marine. The statesman and life peer proves the pen is more powerful than the sword. Game of Spies, tells the story of a lethal spy triangle in Bordeaux between 1942 and 1944.

Co-presenter of BBC’s Coast, Nicholas Crane, uses his on-screen charisma to take us on a journey with his latest book, The Making of the British Landscape – part journey, part history – exploring how geology shapes our cities, industry, climate, economy and lives.

Harrogate is a beautiful location steeped in its own history, so we hope to attract tourists, as well as giving local audiences a fantastic opportunity to be enlightened, entertained and inspired by some of the country’s leading literary minds. As a genre, history is hot, increasingly dominating our bookshelves and screens.

The Festival also features fantasy writer, Joe Abercrombie, singled out by Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin for his ‘terrific work’. Author and TV presenter Tom Holland discusses his latest book, Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar, a formidable account of Rome’s terrifying first dynasty. The academic, cultural historian and TV presenter, Dr Janina Ramirez, shines a light on the Dark Ages with The Private Lives of the Saints: Power, Passion and Politics in Anglo-Saxon England. Janina has also fronted two rock bands.

Panel events will explore themes including Spies: Beyond Bond, Sex and Violence, and Game of Thrones, with a Writing History creative writing workshop for aspiring authors.

The Friday night features a presentation for the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award, and the Historical Writers’ Association Goldsboro Debut Crown. This coveted award is presented to the book judged to be the best debut in historical fiction and comes with a £1,000 prize.

For individual tickets, Day Rovers or Weekend Rovers and accommodation packages, visit or call the Box Office on 01423 562303 


The Bridport Literary Festival 6-13 November

The festival is now in its 12th year and goes from strength to strength. This year’s eclectic mix of speakers promises to appeal again to all those who read books and love literature. The programme of events includes a stellar cast of writers both of fiction and non-fiction. ‘We always plan to invite authors who will intrigue, enlighten and entertain’ says festival director, Tanya Bruce-Lockhart and this year’s line up certainly promises to banish away the dark and gloomy days of winter.






As well as National Treasure Alan Titchmarsh and best selling novelists Margaret Drabble and Salley Vickers,

the year cannot pass without a tribute to William Shakespeare, and Edward Wilson-Lee’s Shakespeare in Swahililand is a celebration of the great Bard’s influence in East Africa – part history, part travelogue. The intrepid Ben Fogle is the ultimate Land Rover, travelling the world in search of adventure – usually with a trusty canine companion at his side.   Tristan Gooley unlocks the secrets of How To Read Water to help we islanders understand the relationship between water, land, sea and sky and shares his own adventures of wild swimming. Robert Twigger’s biography of the Himalayas – White Mountain – reveals the home of mythical kingdoms, wars and expeditions and Charles Foster tells what its like Being a Beast. The week of words includes Jeremy Paxman talking about A Life in Questions, Simon Sebag Montefiore telling the triumphant and tragic story of The Romanovs and Paddy Ashdown revealing his novel A Game of Spies.   A N Wilson’s powerful new novel Resolution is based on the adventures of Captain Cook and crime writers, Sophie Hannah and Janet Ellis will keep us all guessing!

Full programme information Tickets: Bridport Tourist Information Centre 01308 424901


Click here for a chance to win 2 tickets to hear Frank Gardner on Friday 4 November at Petworth Literary Weekend

Petworth Lit logoPetworth Festival is hosting its 6th annual Literary Weekend from 2 November until 6 November at various locations in and around the town including the Leconfield Hall and St Mary’s Church. With tickets starting from as little as £8 for adults and £4 for children, the Petworth Festival Literary Weekend is a unique opportunity to see and meet a wealth of literary greats, up and coming authors as well as high-profile luminaries with fascinating life stories to share. Some of this year’s highlights include:

  • Sarah Raven, English gardener, cook, writer and TV presenter;
  • Top novelist and journalist Victoria Hislop;
  • BBC security correspondent, journalist and author Frank Gardner;
  • Former army Chief of Staff, Lord Richard Dannatt

Artistic Director Stewart Collins commented, “The Literary Weekend has proved itself to be a high point in the life of Petworth – and of course further afield. Coming as it does when the winter is just setting in, the kind of events we have been staging have really lifted the atmosphere and given a very dedicated and engaged audience the chance to mix it with some seriously interesting and successful authors right across the subject range from cooking to history to politics and to fiction.”

The Literary Weekend has already established itself as a hotly anticipated event on the literary circuit, with a solid reputation for securing an impressive line-up of authors. Lovers of the written word can come along to see an eclectic range of writers deliver thought-provoking talks, engage in interviews and participate in revealing Q&A sessions. In addition, each performance includes a book signing, kindly organised and managed by Petworth Book Shop, giving ticket-holders the opportunity to purchase the latest published work, signed by the authors themselves, a brilliant souvenir to take home with them.

For more information call 01798 343055 or email Tickets are available by telephone 01798 344576 or on-line at

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Book Review: The Online Writer’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Earning Your Living as a Freelancer by P.J.Aitken

Whether you’re a seasoned freelance writer or are one of the many people who dream of quitting the nine-to-five for a life of home-working and setting your own agenda, this book will prove a valuable resource.

Online-Writer-CoverSet to be the go-to guide for all online writers and aspiring writers, The Online Writer’s Companion is a refreshingly frank book that sets out clearly, and without flowery language or unrealistic promises, the steps that you can take to carve out a living, or second career, as a freelance writer.

Author P.J. Aitken is a highly successful freelancer who enjoys a top ranking on a number of freelancing websites. Importantly, he has achieved this without a university education and he does not claim to possess spectacular writing skills.

After making a name for himself as a novelist, he began to build a career as a let the writer online, and his message is that if he can do it, so can you.

With any number of online guides and courses promising that would-be freelancers can earn six figure sums in no time flat, this realistic manual tells it like it really is. Yes, says Aitken, it is possible to earn a decent wage as a freelancer, but you’ll have to work hard and accept less than glamorous commissions to get there.

With an admirable honesty and a great attention to detail, he explains the nature of the online market: where to look for work; how to register and post a profile; which sites are worth the registration fee and which are not; and how to deal with unreasonable clients.

His down-to-earth language and advice makes the guide feel like a rewarding conversation with a friend who has already mastered the industry, rather than a dull, impersonal lecture.

Increasingly, writers are drawn to the idea of freelancing, possibly imagining themselves dashing off a couple of hours’ worth of copy a day before spending the rest of the time at their leisure, or cheerfully making a fortune from travel anecdotes as they globe-trot merrily around the world on their not-so-hard-earned funds – but the reality is very different.

The figures, as Aitken points out, are not good at first. Many freelancers earn far less than a living wage and with no fixed income it’s a hand-to-mouth existence that isn’t helped by slow-paying employers and – particularly in the beginning – projects that demand a lot of writing and research time for relatively little financial reward.

Aitken is brutally honest about the long hours he has spent slaving away on projects during his early years carving out a career – the missed parties, the lack of sleep – but freely admits that he was driven by money above all else.

It’s an approach that helped him leapfrog the competition to become one of the most in-demand freelancers on the market, and he emphasises that this early doggedness laid the groundwork for a more relaxed approach a few years down the line, when he could be more selective and let the clients come to him.

Aitken also holds his hands up to mistakes he has made along the way in the hope that readers can thereby avoid the same pitfalls and fast-track to the better paying gigs.

He relates numerous horror stories of dodgy clients and dodgy sites so newbies can know how to spot a scam, and as somebody who was once offered $400 to deliver ‘flawless novels with five-star ratings on Amazon’, he’s seen it all.

His book covers everything from creating the perfect freelancer profile – including how to deflect attention from a lack of experience or formal training – to gaining five-star ratings on freelancer sites through professionalism and a willingness to work.

The most important thing with The Online Writer’s Companion is that it will allow readers to get a head start against the competition. The determination and readiness to apply the elbow grease, however, is up to them.

Both freelancers looking to boost their earnings and complete beginners hoping to get their food on the ladder in this hugely competitive industry will gain a lot from Aitken’s tried and tested words of wisdom. In the long run, it could be the difference between earning spare change and a comfortable, steady income.
The Online Writer’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Earning Your Living as a Freelancer by P.J Aitken is out now (Skyhorse Publishing), priced £14.99 in paperback. Visit

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Lovereading Top 10 books 25 September – 2 October 2016


Missing, Presumed (DS Manon, Book 1) Missing, Presumed (DS Manon, Book 1)
Susie Steiner
If you’re looking for a fresh, addictive police procedural with characters who spring into vivid life, then look no further than Susie Steiner’s Missing, Presumed. It’s Steiner’s first venture into the crime genre – her debut, Homecoming, was more literary …
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The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow
Jackie Morris
Gosh, this is absolutely and completely enchanting. The moment I laid eyes on ‘The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow’ I knew I had fallen in love, I hugged the book before even opening the pages. I felt like a …
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The Malice of Waves The Malice of Waves
Mark Douglas-Home
September 2016 Book of the Month.
The third in the gripping ‘Sea Detective Series’ continues to captivate, with the rather wonderful Cal McGill investigating the disappearance of a 14 year old boy from a small private island off the Scottish coast. …
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The Loving Husband The Loving Husband
Christobel Kent
A darkly mesmerising tale exploring trust, love and deeply hidden secrets. Fran’s life is thrown into turmoil, causing her to question her husband, her love and herself, just what is the truth? The prologue emits chills of disquiet, certain words …
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The Unravelling The Unravelling
Thorne Moore
Thorne Moore delves deep into the dark corners of a mind disturbed by the wicked acts of childhood that refuse to stay hidden in this edgy psychological thriller.
A simple, innocent moment unlocks memories that have long been buried and the …
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Tastes Like Fear Tastes Like Fear
Sarah Hilary
September 2016 Book of the Month.
This is the third in the ‘DI Marnie Rome’ series, and is just as distinctive, powerful and enthralling as the first two (Sarah Hilary’s debut won the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year). In a …
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The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
In the footsteps of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, the unreliable narrator domestic drama of untruths is the new ‘hot’ genre. The author was best known under another name for chick lit entertainments. …
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Muse Muse
Jonathan Galassi
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title.
A witty tale of the book world, writers, muses and the vagaries of the intellectual mind, this short debut novel by a veteran US publisher and accomplished poet might appear lightweight at first, but its layers …
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the Third Wheel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the Third Wheel
Jeff Kinney
Seventh in this hilarious series. Love is in the air, but what does that mean for Greg Heffley? A Valentine’s Day dance at Greg’s school has turned his world upside down. As Greg scrambles to find a date, he’s worried …
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One Day One Day
David Nicholls
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 23 February 2012.
One of Richard Bacon’s favourite books.
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