New Non-Fiction Bestseller Shows Where Book Industry’s At

pinch of nom

The recent success of a slimming cookbook shows the reading habits of today’s book market and could pave the way for a continued focus on slimming and self-improvement books by publishers in the future.

The book in question, Pinch of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone, went on sale on 21 March and just 72 hours later had sold 210,506 copies according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan. This is an incredible success and shows that books on advice and self-improvement are the way to go in today’s market.

Stemming from a popular blog run by a pair of restaurateurs, Pinch of Nom shares recipes that are compatible with a range of diet plans such as Slimming World and Weightwatchers.

Personally I first noticed this book when it repeatedly cropped up on my social media feeds. Friends were posting about how it was the first cookbook they’ve ever bought (we’re in our mid-20s it’s a tad worrying but we’re not really proper adults so I suppose it’s not really surprising) and how it was a revolutionary slimming cookbook because it combines healthy ingredients with indulgent recipes.

There’s been a surge in this type of cookbook over recent months, with many chefs and cookbook writers have been focusing on quick, healthy and uncomplicated recipes such as Mary Berry’s Quick Cooking. There are also a number of self-improvement books on the market currently: not the sort of thing Bridget Jones would gravitate towards which tells you to sling your boyfriend and meditate, but instead books that seek to use theory and education as tools to help readers to improve some aspect of their lives. For example, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) is written by psychotherapist Philippa Perry to help parents to better support their children. There’s also How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned from Things Going Wrong, based on a popular podcast that gives a glimpse into the life lessons to be learned from failure.

In all there are some great self-improvement and change focused non-fiction books on the market at the moment, and Pinch of Nom’s incredible success shows that readers are drawn towards books that will help them achieve their goals. This, in my opinion, is the future of non-fiction book publishing: books that offer readers the knowledge to empower them to change their lives. Also, the noticeable fact that the book is based off a blog shows that readers are increasingly drawn towards reading books which they have previously seen online or in other interactive formats such as podcasts or vlogs.

The Top Five Best Detective Sidekicks

dr watson

Recently someone wrote a comment on my blog about the ‘random topics’ I write about, which got me thinking about how far I’ve come away from a detective and crime fiction focused site through to a general book blog.

Seeking to get myself back on track, I decided to do a top five on my favourite sidekicks who accompany some of the world’s best detectives and how they keep readers interested even when the protagonist exhausts the reader’s patience.

After all, detective accomplices often serve the same purpose in the narrative as they do in literarily: they act as an interpreter between the detective and the reader. Usually they are in same position as the reader: they don’t have the insight and detective capabilities of the protagonist, and as such have the detective explain their processes. At the same time, they usually understand them and as such the author uses them as a tool to share information with the reader without just dumping it on them in big pieces of description.

So, to get back to my crime fiction roots, I showcase five of my favourite detective accomplices and explore the important role they play in their series. I hope it allows you to find a new read or to learn more about an old favourite.

5. Dr Watson: You might think that Sherlock Holmes’ accomplice would be a contender for the top spot, but as a basic copy of the original by Edgar Allan Poe and the template for hundreds of future detective sidekicks he is basically a caricature. However, he’s still an important part of the crime fiction space, and he has become a beacon for all future detective accomplices: loyal, determined, and unbelievably ordinary. He doesn’t have the supreme intellect of Conan Doyle’s famed detective but he has the military background to make an ideal bodyguard and the education to be useful at a crime scene.

4. Captain Hastings: Agatha Christie’s Poirot was not always accompanied by his sidekick, Hastings, who is a clear rip-off of Watson, but he is the best of all of Christie’s myriad of sidekicks. He is just as loyal and determined as Watson, without the intellect but boasting the military background, physical strength and social knowledge that his friend lacks.

3. Bunter: Lord Peter Wimsey’s valet, former army sergeant and closet confident, Dorothy L. Sayer’s character is, at first glance the epitome of a Watsonion detective accomplice. However, when you consider his personal love of photography and skills in that area, as well as his willingness to answer Lord Peter back and his, until the later books, almost complete lack of life outside of his work, you see that Bunter is in fact an innovative incarnation of the traditional model.

2. Sergeant Lewis: Colin Dexter’s sergeant, who is Welsh in the books and a Geordie on TV, is a typical example police character but he changes the model for detective sidekicks. Whilst many are younger and less experienced than the detective themselves, in the books Lewis is older than his boss, and he is infinitely more professional. What he lacks as a former boxer and uneducated man is the education and class to easily mix with and uncover the secrets of Oxford’s elite, which is where his boss comes in. Together the pair make a formidable team.

1. Pommes Frites: The cutest detective sidekick I’ve ever come across is Pommes Frites, Michael Bond’s bloodhound who assists Monsieur Pamplemousse, an undercover gastronomic reviewer who often gets into sticky situations and has to sleuth his way back out. This quirky duo work well together to create a perfect unique combination in a series of heartwarming and dastardly tales by the creator of Paddington Bear.

Why J.K. Rowling Should Stop Amending The Harry Potter Books

j.k.rowling harry potter

For those of you who aren’t aware (anyone who’s been living in a cave for about 20 years), J. K. Rowling, one of the world’s most famous living authors and creator of the Harry Potter franchise, has made yet another amendment to her original books.

The initial series spanned seven books, which are among the best children’s fiction ever written, in my humble opinion. They grow with their readers and offer them a unique glimpse into a magical world where you can be pretty much anything you want with a little bit of courage, a lot of determination and a big dash of kindness. Rowling’s hero and his friends overcome adversity whilst at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where they are learning magic.

Thanks to the international appeal of the series, and the pretty much all-round failure of her other ventures, Rowling has continued, over the years, to add to her books and work hard to keep them in the public consciousness. As part of this she set up Pottermore, a website where fans converge and read new short stories, essays and insight into their beloved childhood characters.

However, she has been using the site, and her social media platforms, over recent years to add increasingly outlandish and maddening details to her books. For example, she recently said that before the introduction of Muggle plumbing wizards would simply relieve themselves where they stood and then magically vanish the evidence.

Most recently she has claimed that Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay and in a deeply passionate relationship with a dark wizard barely mentioned in the books, but whose character has developed as a result of her new franchise Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was also devised to keep the Harry Potter universe current and brining in money. The idea of the character being gay has been mentioned before, but now sexuality is also bought into play with the notion of a ‘passionate’ relationship.

As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that I don’t believe fully subscribe to the notion that ‘the author is dead’, however I do think that Rowling needs to leave her creations alone. Although she devised the world and wrote the books, they belong to everyone now, and they are deeply entwined with many childhood memories that she is trampling on by constantly embellishing her work over two decades after she first published it.

Another issue I take with her changes to her books is the fact that she is clearly trying to add inclusivity, presumably to bring them up to today’s standards. The fact is, the Harry Potter books were progressive for their time, with a lot of female characters revoking traditional stereotypes, and many differently-abled characters proving that anyone can stand up for what’s right. Despite this, she has felt the need to change this since the publication of her books, for example when she declared that one of her protagonists Hermione could have been black, despite the fact that she is described as pale throughout the books.

Rowling’s most recent revelation, that Dumbledore was gay, comes despite the fact that the character does not have any sexual relationships with any other characters, either male or female, throughout the books. As such, whilst the addition of a gay character into the books would have been really great, the fact that Rowling drops this information after her books are published and popular allows her to seem to progressive but not actually address this in her work.

Alongside the new films in the latest spin-off franchise, merchandise is another key area in which Rowling continues to make money from the Harry Potter series. I recently wrote a post about the issues this poses and why I feel like it doesn’t encourage more people to read, and as such I feel, perhaps a little cynically, that it is simply a money spinning exercise. I understand the need to earn a crust, but I personally feel like it cheapens the books themselves, which were beloved by so many and are a key part of a whole generation’s childhoods.

At the end of the day, Rowling doesn’t need to enhance her books any further; the series is already a worldwide hit. What she should do now is sit back and let her readers carry on her legacy by using their own imaginations to do the work rather than tainting it by constantly adding to it. Also, in a literature and film market saturated with remakes, sequels, prequels and a general lack of imagination, it would be great if Rowling could use her considerable literary talents to create something completely new and inspiring to rival Harry Potter rather than just constantly going back to it. Her detective series and standalone works have not been successful so far, but there is so much more she could do, and perhaps a return to children’s writing in a new series with a new idea could bring back the magic to her work.

The Beauty Of Re-Reading Old Favourites

rereading 7

Recently a friend and I got into a conversation about re-reading books. She is adamant that, with so many new and exciting books in the world, there is no point in revisiting an old one when you can check out something new and exciting.

My own opinion, however, is pretty much the exact opposite. Whilst I love reading new books and discovering something completely unexpected, I feel there is definitely some to be said about re-reading books you particularly like or ones you don’t think you fully understood or appreciated on the first go.

After all, you can pick up nuances in the text which you didn’t notice the first time. Also, I personally can’t remember books I read years ago in great detail, so re-reading is a great way to reconnect with books whose beauty and majesty I’ve forgotten.

For those who struggle to finish books they don’t like or simply can’t connect with for whatever reason, re-reading can be great as you know you’re going to definitely make it through and enjoy the book. I often get the same way with films; on some weekends when I’m busy and I only have a couple of hours to watch some TV before going out I tend to re-watch something rather than check out something new as I know I’ll love the film I’ve already seen, whereas I might not like my new choice. I know I’ll be able to check the new film out when I have more time, but when I’ve only got a set number of hours I tend to focus on making sure I definitely enjoy myself. Sometimes it’s the same with books, and that’s OK.

Personally I try to revisit certain books, such as Pride and Prejudice and Colin Dexter’s best novel The Way Through The Woods at least once a year if I have chance, whilst at the same time making sure that I read new books afterwards and before so that I get a good mix of new surprises and old favourites. There’s nothing wrong with re-reading books and frankly, as long as you’re reading anything then you’re doing great in my book.

The Secret Child Review: Another Tense Thriller From Caroline Mitchell

The Secret Child

Following on from Caroline Mitchell’s gripping novel Truth and Lies comes the second in the DI Amy Winter series The Secret Child. Having reviewed the first in the series previously I was keen to take part in Mitchell’s latest blog tour to find out more about the second outing for this dogged and troubled detective.

In the follow-up to the thrilling first novel in her series, which will hopefully be a long one, Winter is still reeling from the news that she is the daughter of a pair of sadistic serial killers and the horrible experiences of her previous case.

Despite this she has no time to grieve as she is thrust straight into another in the form of an investigation into a horrific abduction with a sadistic twist. When another child is snatched Winter faces a race against time which sends her straight back to the one person she wished she’d never have to speak to again: her serial killer mother.

Showcasing her strong characterisation skills and her unique ability to create engaging emotional scenes Mitchell brings this frightening tale to life in her latest novel. Her characters are evolved and emotionally entangled without being annoyingly sappy, and the reader is quickly immersed in the entwined tales of the kidnap and Winter’s relationship with her psychotic mother.

Being a police officer gives Winter access to the case in full, as well as access to a myriad of other insider information and as such her manipulative mother wants a quid pro quo in return for advice on the topic she knows most about: the mind of a depraved child kidnapper.

Having enjoyed both novels I desperately hope that there’s more where this came from. I loved Truth and Lies and The Secret Child was just as thrilling and gritty, so hopefully Mitchell will bring her talent for tension and passion for the police procedural back in the future!

 

 

A Perfect Explanation Review: A Haunting Historical Human Drama

a perfect explanation

Another blog tour post for you today, this time a review of a gripping historical book depicting real-life events from a fresh perspective.

A real life story that is almost too mind-boggling to be true, Eleanor Anstruther’s A Perfect Explanation tells the story of Enid Campbell, the author’s grandmother, who sold her son Ian, Anstruther’s father, to her aunt Joan for £500 in the 1930s.

The book is incredibly rich in human emotion and, as the author explains in the epilogue, is designed to turn these half-remembered caricatures from her family’s past into living, breathing, thinking entities.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the women involved: be it Enid herself, in both the 1960s, when she lives in a nursing home awaiting a visit from the son she sold and across the year leading up to his sale, as well as her daughter, who was not sold but still feels the burden it placed on her family, as well as Joan herself, who is coming to terms with the challenging fate her sister has thrust upon her.

This approach ensures that the reader is able to view the complex drama that unfolds through numerous perspectives, helping them to feel empathy and understanding. With such a personal connection to such an emotive and upsetting case, Anstruther could easily have created a take-down of her grandmother, but instead she wrote a unique and deeply moving book which explores her motives and those of the other players in the tragedy.

Throughout the book Anstruther perfectly combines human drama and emotion with evocative settings and haunting description. Each individual comes alike thanks to the writer’s skilful descriptions and human-focused narrative, which hones in on each member of the family and brings them to vivid life.

In all I was incredibly impressed by this moving portrayal of human suffering, mental illness, obsession and parenthood, and I think anyone who enjoys books of any genre that are rich in human emotion will too.

 

The Widening Gyre Review: A Modern Sci-Fi Epic

the widening gyre

The debut novel from Michael R. Johnston, The Widening Gyre, creates an entire empire peopled by numerous species in just over 200 pages. A sci-fi epic that makes the genre accessible to even those who aren’t die-hard fans, this is a detailed and intriguing novel that packs a punch.

The story follows Tarjen Hunt, a member of the human race now living in an empire run by the Zhen, a proud race who distrust and mistreat humans after they saved them. The human race was on board a ship travelling away from earth when it got damaged and had to be rescued. In author Johnston’s portrayal of the future earth is now just a distant memory, and humans now live as part of the empire in uneasy truce with their hosts.

Tarjen is a war hero turned wheeler-dealer travelling space hauling parts around for the empire after a personal tragedy alienated him from his family. When his estranged brother sends him a message begging for help, and then promptly dies, Tarjen and his newly acquired crew go on a dangerous quest to follow a path which they believe will take them back to earth.

Mistreated and overtaxed by the Zhen, the humans are considered an inferior race in the empire, and as such they are eager to reclaim their homeland and uncover the truth about their history. But Tarjen and his team face stiff opposition from ruling Zhen and a number of other dissidents as they battle to find his brother’s clues and uncover the path back to earth.

Written in the first person as a sort of ship’s log combined with a diary, Johnston’s narrative shows Tarjen’s personal opinions on each situation he’s in, building characterisation and driving tension as the plot hurtles towards a fascinating conclusion. Also Johnston gets a lot of love from me for integrating a gay protagonist and a lot of female characters into a genre traditionally not known for its representation. He does it in a very respectful way that isn’t too self-congratulatory, and as such this is a great victory for those looking for literature with more representation.

Overall this is a great debut from Johnston, who has built a unique world and created a fast-paced adventure within it. The Widening Gyre is great not just for science fiction fans but for those who enjoy thrilling, action-packed reads that will keep them captivated from start to finish.