An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘book blogging’

I’m back with an awesome reading challenge

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote, right?!

I tell you, trying to be so IN with the publishing community is absolutely amazing. It also gives me so much to do and so many ideas, with so little time to actually get it done. But I’m going to try my best to continue blogging this year.

I’ve started an AMAZING new job as Assistant Copy Editor at a new mental health publishing company called Trigger Press, so there’s that to deal with too. I will blog more about it later, so watch out for that.

Amazingly, on top of all of this, I’ve given myself quite an ambitious reading challenge for 2017, too, despite having ambitions to do a million and one other things and still find time to work, eat and sleep.

I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of new year’s resolutions, but I love them. One of them for this year is to travel all around the UK and learn about the different places in my own country. I realise I know so little about the UK and so I want to remedy that, and enjoy life outside of work a bit more. Perhaps I’ll blog about that too, maybe. Or I’ll just keep a personal diary for that. I don’t know if I can possibly start a travel blog as well as a fairly quiet publishing one 😮 I’ve done quite well with that so far, as I’ve already planned quite a few trips and already taken my first one to Sheffield.

What I’ve also decided to do is set myself a “52 Books by 52 Publishers” reading challenge. Averaging at one per week obviously, but some of that will have to involve binge-reading on my holidays, but that’s OK. It’s 52 by the end of the year, not 1 a week.


Apologies for the rubbish picture. These will improve.


So far I think I’ve read around 6 or 7, so I’m kind of on target, but I will post the first review up shortly.

Any genre goes. I am mainly concentrating on independent publishers, but the Big 4 will show up some places too. The only rule I’ve set myself is that different imprints that belong to the same publisher do not count. They have to be 52 completely different publishers. Makes things more interesting and more challenging that way.

If anyone feels like being a nosy bugger, here’s my amazon list that shows you the ones I’m looking at buying/asking friends and family to buy me for birthday etc. over the year. I won’t necessarily get them from Amazon every time, as I am trying to visit lots of indie shops this year or buy from the publisher’s website where possible, but Amazon and Goodreads are the easiest place to make a wishlist and probably the easiest way to get others to buy for me (I can just point them towards a list and they can pick which one they want to get me.)

If anyone has any recommendations of books or publishers, PLEASE, holler!

Follow the journey on Twitter @cox_stephanie  #52booksby52publishers








Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge by Janet Watson


I love how unique this book is; how completely honest and open Janet is about her past and her feelings. I think everyone who feels nostalgia for days gone by would very much enjoy this novel.

June 1981: That night. The night we made love in desperation. So much emotion, so much need. But now I’m sure of one thing. It’s rapid cell division rather than stress that has been messing with my biology.

Dallas is on the telly, Abba are number one, Starsky and Hutch are on her bedroom wall – and Janet is falling in love for the first time. In the warm glow of the local pub, with cider, Tetley’s and a close-knit gang of friends, life for Janet and Mark couldn’t be better. Then, one morning, her mother’s worst fears for Janet are realised and a decision is made that will change everything.

Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge is a true story from the emotional front line of a first love. This beautiful and vivid account of Mark and Janet, their lives, love and loss, shows how the mind has an uncanny ability to ignore what it doesn’t want to acknowledge. Until it has to.

We’ve all been there: finding ourselves at a critical point in our lives which makes us look back on our childhood, school and college life and wonder what would have been different if only a different decision had been made. We’ve all definitely had a first love before too.

In this true story, we travel back in time with Janet to look at how the past shaped her future and how her psyche managed to hide itself from her for all of these years. All of the stress and negative things that happen to her are tamped down and stifled, and Janet soldiers on through upset, heartbreak and trauma, completely unaware of the real impact it has on her. As we go through the chain of events that made up her childhood and adolescent years, it is fascinating to see how things that were seemingly small at the time actually had a huge impact on the adult. It opens up the reader’s eyes to the damage that can be caused if you don’t face and deal with those real problems in life – both psychological and physical.

The book is written from the point of view of Janet – teenaged Janet gives us her voice through a series of diary entries throughout the book. Adult Janet interjects these passages with a narrative of her own and it gives a real intriguing angle to the story. We can see throughout the book how each of these events that happen to young Janet – and all of the decisions she makes – affect Janet’s adult life and outlook on the world around her.

The novel takes us through the years of Janet’s relationship with her first true love, Mark; it highlights the often oppressive nature of her parents, and her struggle in finding the right career and finding somewhere that truly feels like home. The book is genuinely funny but unbelievably touching. It is relatable and very approachable. It explores the beauty and incredible complexity of human love, in all its forms and incarnations. It shows that love and life isn’t just black and white. It does all of this while taking us on one woman’s fascinating journey through early life.

Janet is originally from my home town of Hull and moved around England throughout her life. There are a few parallels in her life to mine: I’ve lived in some of the places that she’s lived in and had to make similar decisions regarding my career. It shows that a lot of people’s struggles and triumphs are universal and this book will speak to so many of you.

Ultimately what it showed me is that nothing is perfect, nothing is easy, but things can be fun along the way and when they aren’t, you can learn from it. This book was both fun and heartbreaking and really, really worth a read. It made me want to read more true life stories.

A big thank you to Janet Watson and Route Publishing for supplying the book. Much appreciated!




Introducing Librarian and Author Matthew Selwyn

I am pleased to host on my publishing-themed blog an interview with a librarian. Often librarians can be overlooked in book-themed blogs, but I want to champion the likes of Matthew and other such individuals like him. With 25k followers on Twitter alone, he is fast becoming an influencer in the book blogging world. He has such a strong passion for books and writing and it keeps him very motivated in everything he does. Read on to find out more about him…

Librarian Matthew Selwyn

Librarian Matthew Selwyn

Please introduce yourself and give me an overview of your career so far.

Hi, I’m Matthew Selwyn – author, blogger, student, and librarian. I’ve been writing a book blog – – for around four years now, which I set up with the intention of forcing me to think more critically about books I had read and also to get me into the habit of writing regularly. I suppose it has succeeded on that score, as after writing the blog for a couple of years I started work on my first novel (****, or, The Anatomy of Melancholy). This was released late-2014, and I’m currently finishing the first draft of my second novel, so I’ve certainly begun to get the hang of writing regularly! I’m also lucky enough to work in a great academic library, which is somewhere I feel completely at home.

What are some of the most rewarding parts of working as a librarian?

There was a recent YouGov poll that put author and librarian as the two most desirable jobs in Britain, which made me insufferably smug for a few days. I am incredibly lucky to have fallen into a lifestyle that means I am around books all day – what better way to spend a life? – and I’ve always found the cosy world of libraries more appealing than the more profit-focused publishing industry, so things couldn’t have fallen out much better for me. My university has a gorgeous Victorian library, and being paid to spend time there is an absolute dream for a bibliophile like me. I’ve also worked in public libraries, and I love the sense of being part of a community and supporting people who wouldn’t have access to books, computers, knowledge, a friendly ear, and all sorts of other things, that libraries can provide. Obviously, though, the biggest advantage to working in libraries is a staff library card: almost unlimited borrowing right, priceless. (Yes, I am that sad / easily pleased.)

You state on your blog that you “love discussing opinions with others, and arguing various viewpoints. With that in mind I hope my blog creates an atmosphere that inspires debate, and that readers will interact, disagree and generally have a chat with me through comments.” Do you think it’s important that people have debates and differing opinions on literature?

I’m not sure it’s important necessarily – it’s good for people to be able to respond to art in whatever way they like. It is, after all, a very personal thing. For me, though, I know talking about literature and hearing interpretations and opinions argued has helped me develop as a critical reader. It is fun too. Reading, for all that I love it, is a very isolating experience; to be locked away from the world with only the words of an author far removed for company makes for a fairly lonely hobby, so being able to share that hobby with other readers is great, not just for its literary value but for its social value too. Given half the chance, I’d lock myself up in a remote hideaway with a big pile of books and only emerge when I’d exhausted my reading material. Curbing that instinct by making discussion part of my reading process certainly helps me to be a less insular hermit. Sort of.

I am incredibly lucky to have fallen into a lifestyle that means I am around books all day – what better way to spend a life?

You clearly read a lot of different types of books. Why is it important for you to read / review a large range of book genres?

I think I’m still finding myself as a reader – if that doesn’t sound too pretentious? I was a bit of a late-bloomer when it came to reading, so I’m still finding my way around the literary landscape and discovering what catches my imagination. It is important to broaden your mind as much as possible, too, and reading across different genres certainly helps me to do that. I haven’t yet found a particular genre that suits me better than any others – I suppose, like a lot of things, one day I fancy a particular type of book and on another I’ll want something completely different. I have realised, though, that I want a level of substance to books I read. When I was younger, a good story would do it for me, but now I want books to do something more as well: to address, on some level, the big issues of the world and existence.

You’ve recently interviewed big names – Philip Zimbardo being one of them. To what extent do you try to explore areas other than general publishing and books in your blog and your work?

I have things that really interest me (humans, mainly – funny old things that they are) and so I suppose you can approach all sorts of things, art and beyond, from different angles that tell you something about human nature. Professor Zimbardo was a really interesting interview – having studied psychology he’s someone whose work I am familiar with, and his recent focus has been on how technology is affecting what it is to be a young man in the modern world. This is almost exactly the theme that my debut novel deals with and it was wonderful to be able to exchange thoughts with such an influential thinker. The whole area of how digital space is changing our lives is fascinating: a lot like reading, it has the potential to be hugely isolating. Equally, in such an uncontrolled environment the flow of information is really forming the minds of young people today. We only have to look at the number of recent radicalisations where social media has played a key role to know this, but I think we, as a society, should be looking at the less dramatic cases – the way in which our attention spans are being obliterated, our ways of interacting with one another completely changed, and the mindless prejudices that are propagated through the internet (for me, the way men interact with pornography is particularly interesting/worrying). I suppose my own writing very much drives the focus of my attention – at the moment I am particularly interested in mental health issues – and this filters through to my reading and the interviews I run on the blog. I try to make sure I cover a range of topics, but inevitably it’s my own interests that inform a lot of the content.

Recently you’ve started collecting books. Why did you decide to start doing this and what are your favourite editions in your collection so far?

Something about human nature makes us want to possess the things we covet, which I suppose is the root of most collections. When I started out, I had some lofty notion of setting up a library later in life, which would be a philanthropic project of sorts. I’d like to keep a personal library and share it with young people to inspire them to enjoy reading. Public libraries have been a big part of my life and there is nothing quite like browsing a collection of books and knowing you can take any of them home. I suppose I had (ok, have) in my mind that I will one day have a small, antiquarian library that I’ll let anyone and everyone use, provided they’re prepared to listen to me banging on about books whenever they come round.  I have that librarian instinct to want to document and preserve books too, I think, and so knowing that I’m looking after what are, to me at least, important items gives me pleasure.

I collect mainly modern first editions at the moment, my bank balance not stretching to anything more extravagant. There is the added bonus, beyond affordability, of being able to come across these in any second-hand bookshop with a bit of luck, which is a good deal more fun than being restricted to antiquarian bookshops where everything is carefully catalogued and priced. Far more romantic to stumble upon a nice looking first in the corner of some newly discovered bookshop.

I have quite a few signed firsts of Martin Amis’s books, he being one of my favourite authors. My favourite of these is a funny little book he wrote in the 1980s on the subject of the arcade game Space Invaders. Invasion of the Space Invaders is often missed off of Amis’s personal bibliography and is rarer than a good number of his better-known titles. It’s a real juxtaposition to much of his high-brow writing and I really like having a book that gives an extra dimension to Amis as a young man rather than as an author. If I had to choose between that and my first of Money, it’d be the little green men any day of the week. On more traditional lines, I’ve got a 1920s copy of Alice in Wonderland, which is a lovely book with beautiful printing and illustrated plates. It’s something I hope to read to my children one day, and it is books like this, which combine aesthetic appeal with history that typify what I really enjoy about collecting books. A brand new paperback just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Digital vs. Print – which has your heart and why?

In case my eulogising in the previous answer didn’t rather give the game away, I am very much a print man. I like the idea that each copy of a book has a unique history, even if I might never know what it is by the time it makes it into my hands. The tactile experience of reading a physical book is something digital will never be able to replace, despite the evident portability benefits, etc. I’m by no means against e-books – they are a great tool, and I’m not precious about changing technologies: books themselves are a technology to convey the words within them, and everything moves on. There is a historic element to print books though. It gives me great pleasure to know that copies of Jane Austen’s books, for example, that were around at the time when she was alive are still around today. When things have gone completely digital that’s something we’ll feel the loss of quite keenly, I think.

And finally, what have you read recently that really had a lasting effect on you?

Good question. I think the best book I’ve read this year has been The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. There have been quite a few poor reviews of the book but I found it profoundly moving. It is, ostensibly, a fantasy novel but more importantly it is a rumination on memory and the endurance of love, amongst other things.

You can check out Matthew’s brilliant book blog here:

To find out more about Matthew as an author and his books, visit

You can follow him on Twitter


Do you have a question for Matthew? Put it in the comments below and I will get it answered for you!

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