Category Archives: books

Books Set in Bookshops

Reading Recs

I was talking to my daughter over lunch the other day about the books we’re reading.

She belongs to a book group that reads “serious” fiction and, coming up on their list is Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. It’s a book much loved by Sophie Weston and I have taken advantage of Amazon’s “download a sample” button to get a feel for the voice, the story.

Reading cozy crime

My daughter and I talked about a crime series that I’ve read (not cozy) Harry Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths series. Annoyingly, it appears to have stopped, leaving a lot of questions unanswered.

She downloaded the first book but she’s not sure. She didn’t quite take to the main character and while I read very fast on kindle, she listens on audio (she has three children and doesn’t have time to sit down with a book) which gives the listener a surprisingly different experience.

I knew the series was set in Wales but she was getting the accents, which can make listening hard work.

Books set in bookshops

Then, because I enjoy cozy crime, she mentioned a book by Helen Cox, called A Body in the Bookshop that she thought I might like and we started talking about how many books are set in and around bookshops.

Amy suggested I try the Pultizer prize winner, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which was on her book group list. Time for another sample because there is something inherently appealing about a book set in a bookshop.

I fell in love with Helen Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road a lifetime ago – and Anthony Hopkins in the film, playing the man with whom she had a long and profitable correspondence.

Anne Bancroft fell in the love with the book, too, and her husband, Mel Brookes, bought the film rights so that she could play Helen.

Romances set in bookshops

There are many romances set in bookshops. Not in quite the same number as the little cafes and cakeshops, but a quick search brought up The Village Green Bookshop by Rachael Lucas, which felt as if it was in the same genre. All of them are much deeper and with emotional depths not hinted at by the covers.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser was one where I downloaded a sample and then clicked “buy” and didn’t regret it.

A heroine to root for and a darkly grumpy man who is not exactly a hero, but like the heroine I rather fell for him.

I found The Bookshop on the Corner, part of a series by Jenny Colgan and The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. The blurbs were fun and by this time my “download sample” digit was working overtime.

Bookshops and bloody murder

And it’s not all romance. Bookshops, it seems, are the perfect places to commit bloody murder. All those hidden places behind the stacks. I’m thinking here about my local indie bookshop in East Grinstead. This photograph dates from 1864.

This is it today, with the tables set up outside for the chess club. Built in the sixteenth century it’s still all oak beams and creaky floors with any number of places to conceal a body. That reminds me of The Bookshop Murder by Merryn Allingham, set in Exeter and with added ghost, which I’ve already read.

Quirky and literary

There are quirky ones, like Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop, The Library of Shadows and The Storied Life of A J Fikry which has a supernatural element, adding another layer to the mystery. I’m looking forward to reading it.

And finally there are the more literary offerings including Booker Prize nominee, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (I’ve seen the movie), and the historical Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

And that’s where I planned to stop browsing for titles because my kindle was loaded with samples and, who knows, I might want to read them all.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done that, howling with frustration when I can’t read on as I scramble  to click buy.

Lost for words

But then, fellow Liberta hivie, Sophie Weston suggested I might like Lost for Words by Stephanie Rutland. I did indeed lose the rest of my weekend (after major post decorating cleaning) and a fair bit of Monday morning. No more housework, no writing…

I was totally drawn in by Loveday, the spiky young woman at the centre of this story, by the mystery of her backstory, by the characters who surround her in the past and in the present. And by the glorious Archie (whose tall tales – probably true – remind me of my late husband) who owns Lost for Words, a bookshop in York.

At some point, as Loveday’s backstory unfolds, tears began to fall. I grabbed a tissue and carried on.

Three tissues later I had to go and find the box because the tears didn’t stop until I reached the end, surrounded by a pile of wet and snotty tissues but with that blissful glow of happiness that comes when you’ve read a wonderful book with a great ending.

It doesn’t happen that often – the last time was when I read Spirited by Julie Cohen – but those are the books that stay with you, that you tell your friends to read, that you never forget.

What books set in bookshops have you loved? Pile in with the recs!


Author Liz FieldingLiz

Cover help and a Free Book Giveaway

I’m desperately in need of cover help.
Basically, I can’t decide between two different covers for the Christmas book that I’m about to republish. I’ve revised and extended it and I want it to be right. So I’m asking for advice here.

Please tell me which cover you think I should choose. Continue reading

Reader Loves Book

inner Reader“One of the great problems of attracting attention to a new book,” said a much loved novelist friend of mine, “is that Writer Writes Book is a crap headline.” Reader Loves Book, sadly, is not much better.

X Thousand Readers Love Book might do the business. Publishing phenomenon – which could include contested auction, record advance, film deal or all three – would be even better. That’s talking about cold hard cash, not ephemeral stuff like love.

Actually, even the last headline probably wouldn’t intrigue me as much as Reader Hates Book So Much She Throws it in Bin. Because that’s serious feeling there. And yes, I admit I have done it, but only twice and I’m not proud of it. Continue reading

Romantic Novelists in Wodehouse and Christie

resolution by letterA couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about romantic novelists in fiction and how they compared with the real thing. To be more precise, it was PG Wodehouse’s romantic novelists. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have blogged about them before. (I am a huge fan of Rosie M Banks, before you ask.)

Two interesting things emerged from my researches. First, while PGW exaggerated some aspects for comic effect, in general he was pretty respectful of their work ethic – and success!

The second was – those exaggerations. I assumed they had sprung, new-minted, from the Master’s imagination. But just a bit of digging found that PGW had sources on which he might well have modelled even the most egregious. Glug. Continue reading

The Garden in Fiction…

The secret garden…

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

I imagine, for most of us, our first encounter with a garden in fiction will be Frances Hodgson Burnett’s wonderful book, The Secret Garden. The garden, locked away by a grieving man, is where Mary Lennox, with the help of a friendly robin, and two new friends, discovers a hidden world full of magic and life that transforms all their lives.

“The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books, and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories. Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years, which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite.”

Much has been made during the last couple of years of the healing power of nature. That is what Mary’s secret garden does, for her, for her sickly cousin and for her grieving uncle.

The garden as paradise

Continue reading

Beau Brummell has lots to answer for…

  1. Special Licence Marriage — Heyer’s Research Failing?
  2. Heyer Heroes And Falling in Love With One
  3. New Heyer Stories? Guest Post by Jennifer Kloester
  4. Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas : 8 Maids a-Milking & Heyer
  5. Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes : never ugly, never bald?
  6. Georgette Heyer Study Day
  7. The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities
  8. Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?
  9. Georgette Heyer: the problem of brothers (for sisters)
  10. Who made Georgette Georgian?
  11. Beau Brummell has lots to answer for…

This last week, I’ve been comfort-reading, which means Georgette Heyer. And the influence of Beau Brummell crops up an awful lot.

James Purefoy as Beau Brummell

James Purefoy as Beau Brummell

He is there, even in novels like Arabella that are set after his flight to France. Brummell might be gone from the scene, literally, but he’s still around, in spirit.

cartoon of Regency dandy 1818

Wadded shoulders and wasp-waist for the dandy

Until that moment [Arabella] had thought Mr Epworth quite the best-dressed man present; indeed, she had been quite dazzled by the exquisite nature of his raiment, and the profusion of rings, pins, fobs, chains, and seals which he wore; but no sooner had she clapped eyes on Mr Beaumaris’s tall, manly figure than she realized that Mr Epworth’s wadded shoulders, wasp-waist, and startling waistcoat were perfectly ridiculous. Nothing could have been in greater contrast to the extravagance of his attire than Mr Beaumaris’s black coat and pantaloons, his plain white waistcoat, the single fob that hung to one side of it, the single pearl set chastely in the intricate folds of his necktie. Nothing he wore was designed to attract attention, but he made every other man in the room look either a trifle overdressed or a trifle shabby. (Arabella, Chapter 6)

“Nothing he wore was designed to attract attention…” That could have been a description of Brummell himself. After all, Brummell was the one who said: “To be truly elegant, one should not be noticed.” Continue reading

In Search of Svengali – Part One

Svengali, silent movie

Wilton Lackaye as Svengali (1905)

Looking for Svengali has been in my mind for a while now. I have a Project. (It’s medium term, no need to think I’m abandoning The Book I Need to Finish, Libertà hivies!)

When I realised that today would be Halloween, I thought  the time had come to share a little of my digging so far. After all, on Halloween the novelist’s imagination lightly turns to thoughts of spookiness. And Svengali is surely one of the most unsettling creations of any novelist.

As it happens, last year I got the Halloween brief too . It took me on a wild ride of serendipity. We went to 1938 New York, by way of my neighbours’ pumpkins and The Golden Bough.

So this year please follow me to the nineteenth century in Paris;  and London; and Australia; well all around the world really. Continue reading

World’s biggest signed book auction! Children in Read

Children in Read is the biggest signed book auction in the world. Libertà books suggests some books to bid for, and it’s for a great cause

Children in Read 2021

Children in Read mascotYou really won’t want to miss this year’s Children In Read Author’s and Illustrators’ Auction for BBC Children in Need.

There are fabulous signed books in every genre you can think of, all donated by their authors for this great cause.

All funds raised go to Children in Need, a great cause which supports children’s charities both in the UK and overseas.

If you were thinking of buying a book for yourself, or as a gift for a booklover you know this Christmas – or both! – the auction site is definitely worth a browse. You’ll be helping a very worthwhile cause and you’ll have your booked signed by the author.

More than 650 Lots…

This is the biggest signed book auction in the world and you’ll find donations from world famous, best-selling authors; familiar and much-loved names. Continue reading

Book descriptors : but what do they actually mean?

TBR pile of booksThis week, in connection with something unrelated to this blog, I came across a lot of book descriptors. By that, I mean the kind of words that are supposed to identify types and genres of fiction. Now I think I know what’s meant by romance or historical or saga. But some of the others? Um. Not so much.

So this blog is about a failing in my education. I need to get my head around these new and unfamiliar words to describe fiction. Who knows, I may even be writing some of them?
But if I don’t understand the book descriptors, how will I ever know?

Uplit, or Up-Lit, or Up Lit (Take your pick on spelling)

One of the first book descriptors I fell over was Uplit. I tried the dictionary. Nope. (It asked me if I’d meant to type uplift. Sigh.) Continue reading

Cosy Crime Novel, the Continuum

Lockdown seems to bring out the frustrated book clubber in loads of people. Over the last few weeks people keep asking me if I’ve read this cosy crime novel which is:

  • a murder mystery
  • a phenomenal success
  • in spite of being “only a cosy”.

Well, of course, say to a romantic novelist that a book is “only” anything and we’re onto our skate board and off to the nearest bookshop, out of sheer fellow feeling.

So, yes, I’ve read it. Now.

Of which more later*.

Cozy as a Term of Art

woman walking away, rose, cosy crimeBut that made me realise that I’ve always wondered about “Cozy Crime”. [US spelling because, at least in origin, it seems to be a US term.] I mean, what’s cosy [British spelling because this is me talking now] about crime?

By definition, crime is antisocial, the antithesis of cosy. Crime hurts people, sometimes terminally. It deprives them of something or someone they value and may well make them reassess their whole lives.

What’s more, crime can throw whole groups of family, friends and neighbours into turmoil. 

Maybe that’s why “crime” is often modified to  “mystery” when used in this sort of  label. Continue reading