Have A Very Norwegian Easter By Reading A Crime Novel

Happy Easter weekend to all the lovely Dorset Book Detective readers!

If you’re looking for a new tradition for Easter this year, when things are a bit weird, then I’ve got the perfect idea for you: read crime fiction.

Hear me out: I know crime fiction doesn’t sound very Easter-y, but in some countries it actually is a time-honoured tradition to read thrillers at this time of year.  

At Easter here in the UK, traditions include hiding chocolate Easter eggs for kids to find, eating a cake made with marzipan balls meant to symbolise the apostles and cooking an oversized roast dinner.

While the holiday retains some religious symbolism for some Christian households, most of us just enjoy having the time off, seeing our loved ones and stuffing our faces with tasty treats.

One international tradition that I think we should adopt in the UK is the Norwegian habit of Påskekrim, or reading crime novels at Easter.

At Easter, in this beautiful and chilly Scandinavian country, people cuddle up with a gripping thriller or binge watch a Scandi crime film or TV show.

The tradition allegedly started when two Norwegian crime writers took out an advert in the newspapers that convinced readers to read their new novel. The advert was so persuasive that many readers thought the tale was true.

Thanks to the success of the stunt the book was a huge success. As well as literary success, the publicity strategy started a tradition where readers would seek out new thrillers and mystery novels to read at Easter.

As a result, publishers started timing the releases of new crime fiction novels to coincide with the religious holiday. That meant that there were even more awesome thrillers for readers to check out at Easter every year. It also meant that it’s become a time-honoured tradition to read them over Easter.

Personally, I think that reading crime fiction at Easter is the perfect tradition for the UK. It’s a great way to reinvigorate yourself over the long weekend and expand your mind, while being lazy at the same time. Crime fiction is gripping and great for helping you to escape tough times.

It’s safe to say that there haven’t been too many times that have been tougher than these. That’s why crime fiction is particularly useful for this Easter. After all, we’re probably going to all being feeling a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) as we’re not able to meet up with as many people or do the fun Easter activities that we’re used to enjoying. But reading, particularly gripping mysteries and thrillers, is a great way to feel exhilarated even while you’re stuck indoors, or in the garden if the weather stays fine.

Really well written crime fiction novels can take you out of your home, or garden, and transport you to a new time, place and situation. There’s a type of crime fiction for every writer, ranging from quaint cosy crime fiction through to terrifying political thrillers and more. That means that whatever you’re into, there’s a mystery for you to enjoy this Easter.

Also, reading crime fiction is one of the few Easter traditions that doesn’t involve food. Don’t get me wrong: food is really good. Everyone needs food, and most of love eating it (except for people who just eat those weird Huel meal replacement things, and they’re weird). However, Easter is a lot about food for most Brits. From the cake with the marzipan apostles to the classic crème egg, hot cross buns to the all-important roast dinner, there’s just so much traditional Easter food to choose from. So, it’s nice to have a new tradition that’s not edible.

While I know some people who do use this time to read, or re-read, the Bible, as it’s a religious holiday, most of us don’t believe and therefore choose not to read it.

If that’s the case, then Påskekrim could be the perfect solution. By making this a yearly tradition, we can feel comforted by the familiarity and get the chance to read shiny new crime fiction novels. It’s a win-win situation if you ask me!

Going one step further with the tradition and giving crime fiction books at Easter could be the UK’s way of stepping up this tradition, and I for one am all for it! While we give out loads of edible gifts, mostly in chocolate form, we could start giving out a longer lasting reminder of the awesomeness of Easter. Whether you’re religious or not, this is an amazing time of the year. We get time off and the sun is shining. There will soon be cute baby animals for us to fawn over and pretty flowers. The days are getting longer and the weather’s getting better, and this year, we’re also beating a pandemic.

Being reminded of all that with a shiny new mystery novel would be ace. I for one have already treated myself to a few new thrillers over the past couple of weeks, and I’ll be reading them over the long weekend to celebrate Easter. I think in the future, getting one wrapped in egg covered wrapping paper would make me a very happy reader!

In all, I hope the weather does stay fine for us all this Easter weekend, and that everyone gets the opportunity to read an engaging thriller. It’s even better if you can eat some yummy chocolatey treats while you’re reading too! It’s been a tough year of lockdown, and while it’s getting easier, life is far from back to normal. So, please, be kind to yourself this Easter and consider adopting a new tradition: self-case and reading your favourite crime fiction.

Tech Might Sometimes Inhibit Learning But It Is Encouraging Reading

For many years people have been lamenting the advance of technology. Particularly, technology that is used by children is regularly under fire, and now, it seems like critics might have a point.

Studies have recently shown that e-Books have a negative effect on children who are learning to read, particularly younger kids.

That’s because the use of the technology, and extra bells and whistles such as games, distract them from reading itself. So, children who use this tech get bored by the reading part and want to get stuck straight into playing the games and enjoying the delights of cartoons or whatever else it is they usually do with their tablet.

Personally, I think that technology has its pros and its cons. As the article itself states, in some cases virtual books can help with learning. Therefore, I don’t believe that tech is always a bad guy when children are trying to learn to read.

For example, if virtual books have built-in dictionaries, then they can help children with their comprehension. Someone recently mentioned that this function was one of the main reasons they missed their Kindle, after giving it up to return to the allure of traditional paper books.

With a built-in dictionary, you can swipe your finger over a word and easily learn its meaning. Using this tech is particularly useful for those reading work from a bygone era. When I was at university, I read some medieval text, which I had to read alongside a primer, a separate book. Using the primer made the text understandable, but it was also an incredibly tedious and laborious task. If I’d have had access to an eBook with an inbuilt dictionary, I would’ve found the task much easier and, probably, much more enjoyable.

So, I don’t think that we can completely ditch it when we’re trying to educate children, especially in today’s technology-driven world. Tech is a key part of the world of work, so kids need to be taught to use it and interact with it from an early age.

For those who lament the onslaught of technology, remember that without progress we’d all still be beating our clothes on rocks and living in caves. We have to progress to get better, so we need to incorporate tech into every aspect of our lives and use it to enrich them.

In this day and age, where we are stuck at home and many kids have been remote learning for months, technology is bridging the schooling gap and helping children to learn in a safe space.

Embracing technology in reading, and particularly learning to read, means using a variety of different solutions. While eBooks with games on the end of them might inhibit children’s learning, but other literacy tech solutions, can benefit children and make learning to read both easier and more fun.

One example of this phenomenon is audiobooks. Although there’s a lot of snobbery around them, audiobooks can really help children to learn to read and make them more enthusiastic about stories. In this case, this solution could be ideal for kids, particularly those with learning issues such as dyslexia, who find reading challenging. With audiobooks, particularly if they’re used alongside actual books, kids can learn to read and enjoy books, giving them good habits for the rest of their lives.

Another example of using technology to improve children’s literacy is the recent push to encourage children to watch TV with subtitles, even when it’s in their first language. Personally, I think that this is a good idea, as it will do something very important; it will make children enjoy reading and make it fun, not a chore.

Many adults I speak to who don’t like reading as a hobby say that they got sick of it after school, college or university. After being made to read a lot of texts that they didn’t particularly enjoy, they’re now happy to avoid reading and spend their time watching TV, something we’re not very often made to do analytically.

Even if students are made to watch TV shows or films they don’t particularly like, it often feels less like a chore because it’s communal, whereas outside reading is often done in their own time. All of this can make people find reading boring and make it feel like work.

As a result, they find reading a boring chore, and they don’t do it as a hobby. If they feel like that as a kid, then they’ll give it up as soon as they become old enough. That’s a real shame; I personally know a lot of adults who don’t enjoy reading, and that sucks, when you consider the many benefits of reading for your mental wellbeing and vocabulary. In times of stress reading can be incredibly soothing and it can also help readers to broaden their minds.

During the pandemic, reading has become more popular than ever, with book sales booming. It’s a great way to escape from everyday life and go to other worlds in your imagination without leaving the comfort of your home. So, children who don’t enjoy reading and keep it on as a hobby in adulthood

Fundamentally, reading is an essential skill that everyone needs to learn. However, while schools teach kids to read, they don’t teach them to enjoy reading as a hobby. Reading recreationally has loads of benefits, including broadening your horizons and expanding your vocabulary. So, anything that helps children to enjoy stories and reading gets a thumbs up from me.

Dr Seuss Isn’t Being Cancelled: This Is How Book Publishing Works

You gotta love the internet. Not long after Dr Seuss Enterprises, which published books by the renowned children’s author and preserves his legacy, announced it was pulling six books due to their portrayals of people, outrage ensued.

People started raving that the writer was being ‘cancelled’ –spoiler alert: he’s fucking not. They started bulk buying his books and hoarding them, or selling on old copies at silly prices, in a sad attempt to cash in on this ludicrous display of impotent, pointless outrage.

Frankly, the whole debacle and public outcry is ridiculous. For one, the idiots who are upset at the idea of Dr Seuss being ‘cancelled’ probably have never heard of half the books he wrote.

Aside from The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs And Ham, they’ve probably not heard of anything the author put together, never mind the books that aren’t being published anymore. One of them is the first book he ever published, and most of the others are obscure parts of his back catalogue that already aren’t that popular because of their racist depictions and the poor values that they might teach to children.

Also, if the internet trolls are this upset that an author’s novels are being pulled by a publisher decades after they were written, then they should hear about all of the actually outrageous stuff that goes on in publishing, like the sexual harassment many women encounter, the lack of support for BAME writers, nepotism and more. That’s what they should actually get angry about, not the fact that a well-known writer, who is long dead and whose works still make millions for his estate, isn’t going to get 6 books published anymore.

The issue with these books is that they portray some pretty offensive depictions, which, in 2021, just aren’t acceptable. I mean, they’ve never been acceptable, but society has only just started to accept that racism isn’t OK.

For many years, other, less renowned authors have gone out of fashion and their books have been put out of print. The Bulldog Drummond series by Sapper were one series that has been out of the public eye, and out of print in many cases, because of its highly offensive depiction of Jewish people.

However, these books haven’t garnered as much attention for being out of print for being offensive, simply because when they went out of print, people didn’t automatically leap to this idea that it’s ‘cancellation’ or a freedom of speech issue to stop printing a book that’s deemed offensive. Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from the consequences of that speech; in other words, you’re more than welcome to write offensive books, but don’t expect publishers to keep printing them when readers start speaking out about the issues.

After all, readers are the backbone of any publishing house’s success. They protest with their purchases, and so publishers have to make sure that they’re printing works that reflect the values they want to portray.

That isn’t to say the Dr Seuss was necessarily an active racist; he was probably just ignorant and reflecting common prejudices from his time. However, today’s readers don’t want to see that sort of racist imagery, particularly not in children’s books, and rightly so. Racism is never acceptable, and the world needs to move on from outdated ways of thinking and embrace new literature.

It’s understandable that Dr Seuss’s publishers, particularly an organization dedicated to his work, and therefore unable to expand with new authors, should want to refresh its catalogue and remove writing that’s not in keeping with its values.

Many classic children’s authors, including the amazing Roald Dahl, created problematic portrayals of some races and types of people, and their books are constantly under scrutiny from publishers and agencies alike. If they’re found wanting and the publishers feel that they are too offensive to remain in print, then they will go out of it and new work will come onto the market.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t take away the good messages we take from these works; it just means that we’re acknowledging that, in 2021, people of different races and creeds shouldn’t be faced with humiliating and offensive portrayals of themselves in children’s literature or anywhere else.

One thing I would say about the ‘Dr Seuss is being cancelled’ argument is that it’s definitely disproportionate and that, honestly, this is what happens in book publishing. Work goes out of vogue, or it simply doesn’t sell very well, so it goes out of print. You can still buy second-hand copies, but they won’t make any more of them, for now anyway.

There are bigger fish to fry in 2021, with a global pandemic still raging and Donald Trump still roaming free despite trying to end democracy in the US and causing untold harm to millions of families through his family separation, poor treatment of refugees, and much more. There’s a lot going on in the world, and the fact that the Dr Seuss estate isn’t going to publish half a dozen long forgotten novels doesn’t really matter all that much.

At the end of the day, I think that some books need to make way for new ideas and that it’s not important when some older novels go out of print, for whatever reason. Books that are offensive to some groups deserve to be put out of print, but they’re hardly ‘cancelled’. There will always be somewhere to get them second-hand, and in the age of eBooks they’ll be an everlasting memento of almost every work of fiction. The only reason Dr Seuss’s work is getting so much notice is because some of his works have been made into popular movies. But racist imagery isn’t acceptable, and so we should remember the books we love by Dr Seuss, and accept that not all of them are worth preserving.

Writer’s Block In The Age Of Coronavirus

It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused challenges for almost everyone. From money worries to anxiety and even just plain boredom, even the luckiest among us have dealt with some form of issue.

For writers, the pandemic might seem like a perfect time. After all, most of us are easily able to work from home, and writing in some form or another is always in demand, particularly now everyone has more time on their hands to spend reading.

However, writing is a creative art, and as such, things aren’t always as easy as they might seem.  In a recent article, many authors discussed how the pandemic lockdowns have caused them to endure the dreaded writer’s block.

The condition comes about when writers struggle to think of new ideas, and it can be a real challenge when writing is both your favourite hobby and your livelihood.

As a content writer and team leader, I’ve seen first-hand that the pandemic has given rise to more writer’s block. Some of my team at my day job have experienced it, as have many of my friends who write creatively for a living or blog in their spare time.

All of us have, during the lockdowns, have experienced some form of writer’s block. In some cases it’s a severe lack of imagination, where we know that we have to write about a certain topic, but we can’t think of anything. Some people I know have also experienced a milder issue, where they just suddenly come towards the end of a sentence, paragraph or chapter, and can’t think of the next few words to tie everything together with.

In my case, the most common form of writer’s block that I experience often is when I simply don’t have any motivation to put my fingers on the keypad and start typing. It’s a horrible feeling, and it makes me just want to stare into space and do nothing.

Many individuals, whether they’re writers or not, have experienced a serious downturn in their mental wellbeing thank to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the fear of catching the virus and harming others. For writers, this can cause of compound writer’s block and make writing tough.

Also, when you can’t go out regularly and experience new things and meet new people, it’s hard to get new ideas. You might think that having a lot of time to think would push writers to get more ideas. However, imagination relies on inspiration, and being unable to go out and get it means that it can hard to think of shiny new ideas, especially if you’re writing for a living and need a regular supply of them.

Writing isn’t easy at the best of times, but during a global pandemic it’s even harder. Writer’s block is often made even worse by panicking and thinking about it; the worse your anxiety around it, the harder it is to write. In today’s uncertain age, where almost everyone has anxiety, writing’s a real challenge. As such, writer’s block can be really difficult to deal with.

Every writer is different, so it can be a challenge to find a technique that will help you to overcome your writer’s block. There are loads of different ways to get over writer’s block; many people I speak to often recommend getting up and walking away from your computer, and doing something completely unrelated to writing, like getting yourself a drink or a snack. When they go back to their computer, they often find that they can write again and feel that their minds are refreshed.

Personally, I have a couple of tried and tested tricks that help me. One of them is talking aloud to myself about the topic I need to write about, and then try to get them down on paper. Another is to read extensively for five or ten minutes, then try to get inspiration from that.

I also like to go for a walk; even if I can’t go to a new place, like a pub or bar, right now, and meet new people, a walk sometimes helps. Walking around, even areas that I already know well, can bring me some inspiration, or just wash the fluff out of my brain.

If none of that works then it’s easy to get frustrated, especially as I’m a professional writer, and without my skills I wouldn’t have a roof over my head and snacks in my tummy. I’m very fortunate, in that I’m usually able to overcome my writer’s block with a bit of perseverance, but there’s always a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that one day things won’t come back to me.

One thing that I think I, and all other writers who are struggling to produce new ideas at a rate of knots, need to remember that this is an incredibly tough time for everyone, and what we’re all doing is amazing. The writing community, both creative and corporate, is coming up with new ideas and crafting new art while the world is literally crashing and burning around us. Not everyone can write and create amazing content, but everyone needs it.

Art and writing have been the cornerstones of the pandemic and have held us all up during these trying times. That’s why book sales rose so much during the lockdowns. Everyone needed an escape from the drudgery of everyday life, and books were there for us. Remember that the next time you’re giving yourself a hard time for struggling.

Buying Books Online: How To Get It Right First Time

With the current lockdown measures set to continue for some months in the UK and many other parts of the world, we’re all having to get used to the fact that we’re going to be stuck inside for a good chunk of 2021.

That means finding inventive ways to get enjoy ourselves. For book lovers, that means finding ways to buy new reads that aren’t browsing bookstores and charity shops.

Internet shopping is the ideal solution; currently there aren’t any QVC-style shopping channels for books that I’m aware of, and most book catalogues are for fancy volumes, not normal novels for the everyday buyer.

When shopping online for books, it’s easy to get burned, as I’ve learned myself to my cost. You could wind up receiving a book that’s not the one you wanted, or that’s in really bad condition and not fit for a place in your collection or precious tomes. It’s different to shopping for books in stores, as you can flick through them and actually see them, before you commit to paying for them.

In some rare cases, I’ve even ended up receiving books that I bought online in the wrong language! So, without further ado, here’s some top tips on making sure you get the best books possible when you buy online.

Check Out Independent Bookstores

Not just a tip for getting the best possible products, but also a point for anyone who wants to support local businesses. While major corporations get richer, small businesses struggle to get the funding and support they need to survive the pandemic. So, where possible, check out independent bookstores that have gone online when you’re buying books. Often, you’ll find that you get a better level of service and higher-quality products.

Ex-Library Books Are Usually The Best Quality

While it is a shame that so many libraries are closing down and getting shot of their stock of books, ex-library books are usually great quality and make a great second-hand book buy. So, if a listing for a used book states that it’s an ex-library book, then the chances are that, provided this is true, then it’ll be in good nick. Most library books are well taken care of, and if they become too worn or get damaged then the library usually throws or gives them away and replaces them.

Look Out For Listings With Pictures Of The Actual Book That’s For Sale

Many listings for second hand books will show a generic image of the cover, so you don’t know the actual condition of the book you’re buying. If possible, try to find a site or platform that shows pictures of the book you’ll be buying, so that you can see what it looks like before you pay for it.

Read Customer Reviews Carefully

Reviews from past customers can be a great indication of what a seller is like, but you should always read the content of the reviews, rather than just checking out the star or number rating. Some reviewers don’t understand the numbering system, so they’ll put someone down low when they actually like their service (happens a surprising amount). Alternatively, some reviewers will mark a seller down for something that isn’t even their fault, like the courier being late or the parcel being damaged in transit. Other buyers will be angry for an issue and might make bold claims that sound too outlandish to be true. When reading reviews of anything, my tip is to always look for consistencies. Often, if several reviewers are saying the same thing, then it’s likely to be true. If one person is saying it, then it’s just their word against the seller’s.

Consider Online Security

It’s not just the selection of books and products that you need to be wary of; when buying anything online, you need to think about website security. After all, you’re going to be giving the site not only your payment details, but also a lot of highly valuable data. If your antivirus software flags a site, then be wary and avoid using it, unless you’re sure that it’s just your software being overzealous. Check the site’s Terms and Conditions and make sure that they align with what you expect. If possible, you should also try to pay using a payment service like PayPal or Stripe, so that you don’t have to hand over your payment info to a third party.

Watch Your Bank Account Or Credit Card After The Transaction

Once you’ve purchased your lovely new books, you need to watch your credit card or bank account to make sure that no money is taken. In many cases, fraudsters tend to target certain sites because of weak security, so if other users of the same website report in reviews that they’ve been hacked, then don’t use it. If you notice that you get hacked after using the site, then mention it online, but don’t blame the site; it might be a coincidence. Just make others aware that it happened, so that if others notice an issue then the company can take steps to improve its online security. Also, be proactive and deal with the fraud promptly to reduce your chances of losing too much money and getting into financial difficulties. Some banks and credit card firms will reimburse you if you can prove that it was fraud, so contact them as soon as possible to have them deal with it.

Keep A List Of Your Favourite Book Buying Sites

If you’ve used an online book buying site a few times and like it, then bookmark it on your browser, or if you’re old school, then keep a handwritten list of your favourite sites for replenishing your bookshelves via the internet. Then you can keep going back to them and finding the amazing books that you love to read! You can also recommend them to your friends who want to find books they love online. You might find some niche stores that sell the books you like, such as used natural history books or manga novels.

With a little bit of time and research, you can usually find online booksellers that will give you the service, selection and support that you expect. Whether you’re buying new or second hand books, you want to make sure that you get what you want and don’t waste your hard-earned cash, so be selective and if in doubt, look elsewhere. Happy book buying!

How Is Mills And Boon Still A Thing?

Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of ‘I can’t possibly be a paedophile/ sex pest because of Pizza Hut’ man and therefore a former part of the UK’s royal family, has recently come out as an author for Mills and Boon.

For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s a publishing house that produces cheap, tacky romance novels. You know the type; they’re usually found in large supermarkets that also sell books and charity shops.

Each front cover features a stock photo of a despondent looking woman in period clothing gazing away wistfully while a child clings to them, or a modern couple in a hotel room staring longingly into each other’s eyes.

The novels usually have twee names that harken to a plot that’s much more complicated than the writer is actually capable of creating. Stuff like Price Of A Bride and The Secrets She Carried.

They’re a favourite of Nans and people with little imagination. Mills and Boon has been publishing 1908 and moved into romantic fiction aimed at women in the 1930s.  

While I’ve always registered that Mills and Boon still existed, and that there are novels by the publishing powerhouse on sale, I didn’t realise that it still released new books. Not only that, but they’re attracting writers who are, for want of a better term, famous. Fergie might be one step above the z list, but hers is still a name that is recognised by most individuals in Britain and around the world. She hasn’t been a member of the royal family in a long time, but the fact that she’s now a writer for Mills and Boon is surprising.

Clearly then, these books are still being read and readers still want to read them. In fact, the romantic escapist novels produced by Mills and Boon are still incredibly popular, which begs the question: who on earth still buys them?

Personally, I think that the key benefit of these novels is the formula. In the Guardian article that I linked to above, a writer of many Mills and Boons books named Sharon Kendrick says ‘there is no formula’. However, if you ask me, she’s just saying that to make it seem harder to create these novels than it actually is, but the fact of the matter is that they always seem to follow a basic structure.

Every Mills and Boon novel revolves around a love story that is in some way in peril. It might be an issue of class, or prejudice, or some other social construct from the time period in which each given novel is set. Whatever it is, there’s very little difference between each novel. The names of the characters might be slightly different, and the dialogue is written by a different author, but the plots lead you to the same place and the centre of each tale is that true love is obtainable for everyone and everlasting.

It’s this combination of fantasy and romance that makes Mills and Boon books the ultimate in escapist fiction. People who enjoy them probably want to get away from their lives and feel like fiery, romantic relationships between people of different classes are likely, despite the unlikeliness of them actually happening. How often does a prince meet a woman in a supermarket and decide to marry her? Not that bloody often, I’ll bet.

With novels set in different countries, centuries or societies, there’s a Mills and Boon for everyone. I’m almost positive that they’re all pretty much interchangeable when it comes to plots, and from what little I’ve read of them, they’re pretty damn forgettable. However, they’re easy to read and they appeal to readers who seek a romanticised view of the world.

If you ask me, I reckon that the reason behind the success of Mills and Boon is its ability to keep creating novels that feel familiar but have a slightly different story. Reading them is a bit like re-watching your favourite sitcom for the umpteenth time. However, because there are so many of them, you can always find a slightly different book to keep you entertained. It’s this comforting sense of the familiar that keeps readers coming back for more, and has made Mills and Boon a publishing titan.

While it might sound like I don’t like Mills and Boon (I really don’t), I think that if you enjoy them then you shouldn’t be ashamed. Reading anything is an achievement, and improves your mind a lot. If you enjoy Mills and Boon novels, then keep at it- it’s better than not reading at all.

Season’s Greetings From The Dorset Book Detective

Thank you very kindly for supporting The Dorset Book Detective blog throughout 2020. I’m taking some well-deserved time off, so I thought I’d post this message early to let you know how much I love and appreciate everyone who has supported me over the past 12 months.

I appreciate that this has been a dreadful year, but all of the support and help has really made a huge difference.

Personally, I’ve not always had the emotional or physical strength to be as supportive as I would have liked, but I have tried my very best to be kind.

It’s not been an easy year, but I’ve still had a lot of support from others, including regular readers, authors, book promoters, blog tour organisers and others.

Everyone has done an amazing job of helping me to create my content, so I’m externally grateful. My blog wouldn’t be possible without support and encouragement, so thank you so much.

To wrap up, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Five Incredible Long Reads To Keep You Entertained Over Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020 is going to be a strange one, but with restrictions being eased for a few days, some individuals will be travelling as usual.

Even if you’re not travelling, you’ll probably find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands, as you’re not able to attend the parties and family gatherings that you usually go to during the festive season.

With so much extra time, you have no excuse not to curl up by the fire in a warm blanket with your favourite snacks and reading.

While the length of a book isn’t usually a big issue, shorter texts mean that you’ll have to take more books with you on your journey, and that you’ll have to get up and grab another, which is a pain when you’re already comfortable.

That’s why I’ve listed 5 amazing long reads that will keep you out of trouble during the festive season this year.

5. A Promised Land: Barack Obama wasn’t a perfect president, but he is a good man with incredible moral standards and a unique vision for his country. While he has written non-fiction books before, A Promised Land is the first part of his series of memoirs, which detail his life experiences, including becoming the first black president of America. The book goes charts his journey from his first political ambitions through to his time in the White House, and the challenges he faced trying to unite America and battle against a corrupt system and systematic racism. His wife’s memoir, Becoming, is an amazing read, and the same can be said for A Promised Land.

4. Vesper Flights: Written by the author of the incredible H Is For Hawk, Vesper Flights is a collection of nature essays from this renowned nature expert. Helen Macdonald shares her thoughts on a wide range of topics, including trees, nests, mushrooms and even the issues that come when farming ostriches. Much like its predecessor, the book is a combination of pastoral excellence and personal memoir, making it a fascinating insight into both the natural world and Macdonald’s life. As a collection of essays, it makes for varied reading that will ensure that you’re enthralled throughout your time travelling or curling up in front of a warm fire with a tub of celebrations. As a non-fiction book, Vesper Flights is not only enjoyable to read, but it will also inform you and teach you about both the world of nature and human nature itself.

3. Furious Hours: If you’re a fan of true crime, then Casey Cep’s Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud And The Trials Of Harper Lee could be the perfect option. It’s split into three parts; the first tells the tale of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, whose family members died in mysterious circumstances only for the Reverend to collection on their insurance policies. Then Cep moves on to the tale of the Reverend’s murder, at the funeral of his stepdaughter, who was also killed in mysterious circumstances and with a large insurance policy waiting for the Reverend to collect on. Finally, the author moves on to the tale of how Harper Lee, author of the acclaimed To Kill A Mockingbird, tried and failed to document the murders and create a book to rival Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. The book is an incredible true crime expose that will keep you intrigued for many hours over Christmas.

2. Troy: The follow-up to Mythos and Heroes, Troy: Our Greatest Story Retold is Stephen Fry’s latest attempt to make the Greek myths accessible to those who aren’t classics scholars. The book brings the myths and legends of the city of Troy into a whole new light. It’s a long book that breathe new life into these classic tales. Fry has an amazing knack for turning complicated topics into accessible books (his poetry book The Ode Less Travelled is a fantastic primer for anyone looking to get into writing, reading and generally understanding poetry), and he uses it again when writing Troy. If you want to learn and be entertained at the same time, then this a perfect book for you to grab before you head off on your Christmas holidays.

1. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill: The latest in Sophie Hannah’s series of reimagined Hercule Poirot novels is engaging and unique. It incorporates the unique nature of the protagonist with new, creative story lines. The novels would make the original Queen Of Crime, Agatha Christie, incredibly proud.  In this latest novel, Poirot and his sidekick, Sophie Hannah’s own creation named Inspector Catchpool, try to uncover the truth behind a series of mysterious deaths at Kingfisher Hill, a fancy private housing estate. Even before the pair arrives at their destination, they encounter unusual occurrences that give them a taste of the strangeness that’s still to come. For mystery and crime fiction fans, this is a must-read.

Awesome Crime Fiction Books To Give As Christmas Gifts

Following on from my Christmas Gift Guide for 2020, I’ve decided to put together a selection of amazing crime fiction, thriller and mystery novels that make for great presents.

While book-themed presents are awesome, if you must get your friends and family books, then you want to make sure that you choose a beautiful book that is enticing and will look amazing in their home.

After all, grabbing the latest off the bestseller list doesn’t require a lot of effort, and that shows. If you want to prove your love for the crime fiction reader in your life, then you need to find them an edition that they can cherish.

That’s why I’ve listed some awesome novels that will entice all thrill-seekers; whether they’re already major crime fiction fans or you want to introduce them to the genre.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

As most of the Sherlock Holmes tales are out of copyright, it’s possible to pick up beautiful, illustrated versions for less than £20 at many online and physical bookstores. The books promise many hours of fun and are an amazing gift for fans of the Sherlock TV show or anyone who just loves Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s intuitive and ingenious sleuth. Many collections have all four of the full-length novels plus most of the short stories, so readers will be kept busy during the early months of 2021 with this collection.

A Folio Society Edition Of Their Favourite Mystery Novel

I’m a huge fan of the Folio Society’s gorgeous illustrated novels, so if you know a crime fiction fan who deserves a treat this Christmas, then why not treat them to a glorious edition of their favourite novel? I’d recommend the Folio Society’s stunning version of Agatha Christie’s classic The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, but there’s plenty to choose from, ranging from classics through to modern mystery masterpieces. There are also books from a variety of other genres and non-fiction works, so there’s something for everyone. Each piece is stunningly illustrated and beautifully bound to give it a prestigious and unique look that’s perfect for any sophisticated home. As a result, you’ll be able to select the perfect gift for the book lover in your life no matter what their tastes.

One (Or All) Of The Bodies From The Library Anthology

The Bodies From The Library anthology series has three versions, each featuring an overview of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction from expert and editor Tony Medawar, followed by a selection of incredible short stories and novellas from renowned writers from this pivotal period in crime fiction history. Many of the stories are either previously unpublished or haven’t been issued in a collection before, and have only appeared in obscure newspapers decades ago. As such, you’ll be able to give an amazing gift to someone in your life who loves cosy, Golden Age crime fiction stories. Each anthology has a selection of work from renowned writers of the time, such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, as well as lesser-known writers from the period such as J. J. Connington, Freeman Wills Crofts, Georgette Heyer and many more. As such, readers get to find new favourite Golden Age crime writers as well as check out previously unknown work from the authors they already know and love.

I hope this guide helps you to find the perfect Christmas present for the crime fiction, mystery and thriller reader that you know and love. Stay safe this festive season and make it a merry one!