An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘non-fiction’

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 Literary Agent Sherna Khambatta

Today’s interview is another international one, with a literary agent based in India. Here Sherna Khambatta discusses her role in the industry and the books and publishing landscape in her country.
SKLA Profhimalaya
Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I started the Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency in 2007 after gaining a Msc. in Publishing. The publishing system in India at that time didn’t have many agents and I thought it would be a good way to bring in a certain amount of structure into the industry and help authors get their work sold.

What were some of the challenges in doing so?
In understanding how the system worked/ works. The main challenge in India is distribution / visibility of books and marketing so for me, once the book has been published, that’s more of a challenge than getting a book sold.

Your website says “Literary agents are a new concept in Indian publishing.” How has the system worked previously and what do you feel your company brings to the indian publishing landscape?

There are a very few agents in India still, some publishers such as Hachette India now only work through agents so I think in a miniscule way we’ve been able to bring in some structure into the system. Previously authors could directly send in work to publishers by mail and now by email.

In what ways do you work as the liaison between the author and publisher?

I negotiate the contract, help out in editing the book, and if there are any issues whilst the publisher edits the work then I step in sometimes as a moderator between the two. I also help out in social media marketing, making sure the books are in store, sending out media copies, arranging interviews, organising events/book signings and with Literary festivals.

What is particularly exciting you about Indian publishing right now?

I think India is a country ever changing and there are so many stories to be told and so many individuals with a lot of talent so it’s always exciting!

How many submissions do you receive a month on average and what is it that you look for in a manuscript?

I receive about 70-100 manuscripts a week on average. I prefer working with non-fiction as I believe that no two people have the same experience and so that’s very interesting for me to see something written with a different perspective. I’m in search of well written narratives which I feel should be shared.

What’s been your biggest success so far?

I’m very proud to have worked on the newest book that we’ve released –  Himalaya Bound by Michael Benanav –  on a tribe in the Himalayas. It’s published by HarperCollins India and has been a very fulfilling experience.
The book The Nanologues by Vanessa Able, published by Hachette India, has had its rights sold in the UK & US by the publisher Nicholas Brealey and re-named ‘Never Mind The Bullocks.’ I feel this has been one of my biggest success stories so far.
You can follow Sherna on Twitter @ShernaKhambatta
Find out more about her company here:

BLOG TOUR GUEST POST – Tindog Tacloban by Claire Morley

Today’s blog tour stop is an incredibly important one: it’s about a book which tells the story of Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines in 2013. Here author Claire Morley discusses her knowledge and experience of the disaster and her reasons for writing her important book.

Author small

Guest blog with Words Are My Craft

Thank you to Words Are My Craft and Stephanie for giving me the opportunity of a guest post as part of my mini virtual book tour.

In the aftermath of the fiercest typhoon on record to hit land, banners bearing the words Tindog Tacloban started to appear all over the city. Meaning “Rise Up Tacloban”, they were a testament to the determination and resilience of the Filipino people as they tried to rebuild their shattered lives.

For many, things would never be the same:

Izel Sombilon watched in horror as two of his children were ripped from his arms and swept away by the huge storm waves.

Eleven year old Lika Faye was plunged into the sordid underworld of Webcam Child Sex Tourism.

For Helen Gable, volunteering in the typhoon-ravaged area was a chance for her to come to terms with her own personal tragedy.

Making things real

Tindog 3

Tindog 3

I’ve often thought I would like to write a book. In my mid-thirties I spent 15 months backpacking around the world and I had always thought it would be something non-fiction, based on that experience, which would be the basis for my novel.

I had never credited myself with enough imagination to write fiction. I’m a practical, logical person, not a creative one. So it is still with some surprise I find that not only have I written Tindog Tacloban, but people have found it a good story. However, like most authors, I have drawn on my own experiences and those of others for inspiration. In the book there is a background character called Ian and I loosely based him on the founder of the charity I volunteered with, Andy.

I had spoken to Andy about Tindog Tacloban. I told him it was my plan for all profits to go those organisations I had worked with while I had volunteered and I asked him if he would be happy to help promote the book on his charity Facebook pages. He agreed, but asked if it would be possible to have an advance preview. Well, I could hardly refuse!

At this point in the life of Tindog Tacloban, it had only been read by my beta readers and my mentor, Anne Hamilton. Now it was going to be read by someone who ‘featured’ in the book and who had been through a similar experience to the characters I had written. I felt very vulnerable and emotional as I emailed him a mobi file of my ‘baby’. I waited nervously for this opinion and hoped that he wouldn’t be offended by my borrowing bits of him for my book. So it was with huge relief and much gratitude that I read the review he posted on Amazon:

Tindog Tacloban is a great story in its own right but deserves extra credit for handling two incredibly difficult subjects at the same time, and for doing so incredibly well. I’m a survivor of the 2004 tsunami and the opening chapters of this book, which describe the impacts of typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines), are accurate enough to be quite harrowing at times.

 However, the description is never gratuitous and it’s necessary for the reader to understand the typhoon’s wrath to fully appreciate the context of the subsequent issues of exploitation.’


The account of the typhoon taking place was drawn from the stories told to me by survivors. Several of them mentioned being spun around and around as if in a washing machine as the storm surges caught them unaware. The people of Tacloban are not strangers to typhoons, they get them every year, but never had they witnessed anything with the power of Yolanda and they had never experienced storm surges before. Many lost their lives by staying in their home to protect it and their belongings from looters once the typhoon had passed, only to be swept away by the water.

living conditions

I wanted to portray what it was like to be caught up in a typhoon and then try to give the reader an idea of how people survived the mayhem it left behind. Many of those who did are still trying to rebuild their lives and I hope my series of posts over the past five days has made people think, and perhaps buy Tindog Tacloban, so I can continue to help them do so.

Twitter: @clairemorley15


Buy Tindog Tacloban at Amazon:

You can watch the television interview with Claire about how Tindog Tacloban came about at the following link:

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, decimated parts of the Philippines on 8 November, 2013. Two years later, the people of Tacloban continue to rebuild their lives, many of them still living in tented cities with no electricity and no running water. All profits from the sales of Tindog Tacloban go to help the organisations Claire worked with while she volunteered in the Philippines.

Her mini blog tour is in memory of those who lost their lives and to remember those still rebuilding theirs.

Terri Cox Talks Chick Lit and Translated Fiction!

The purpose of these interviews are to get a more intimate look at how reading affects people and why certain different kinds of literature appeals to different people. Looking at the differences in reading habits between one identical sister and another proves that the books and literature have the power to touch people in so many different ways. Following on from my Readers Insights interview with the first of my two triplet sisters Toni in which she discussed her love of non-fiction and self-help books, I now present to you an interview with the second triplet sister Terri Cox, who gives us a reader’s perspective on Chick Lit and translated fiction, and why these mean so much to her.

My gorgeous sister. Again, I'm not biased, honest.

My gorgeous sister. Again, I’m not biased, honest.

Please introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m Terri, 24. I love reading and have done since I was a kid. My main passion is for Modern Foreign Languages, namely French, Spanish and Italian.
What kind of literature/books do you read?

Fiction. Definitely. I think I have read exactly one autobiography in my entire life. My two favourite genres are fantasy, such as Harry Potter, and what people would refer to as ‘chick lit’, although I read much more of the latter as I get older.
Why does this genre speak to you and appeal to you more than others? What is it you love about it?

Fantasy and magic are for the child in me – the one that still loves the feeling of Christmas morning – but the adult storylines of corruption, mystery, romance and war that run alongside them are gripping and thought-provoking.

I love reading women’s fiction because it’s relatable – a cliché, but true. I can’t count the times I have laughed out loud or shed a tear over stories that have happened to me before.


There is nothing more disappointing than reading a whole book and realising you could have guessed the outcome 300 pages ago.
Is there a good fan base and/or community behind this work or this kind of book?

Fantasy series always have huge followings. For Harry Potter, the story carries on long after you close the book. There is so much more to be learned from the fan community, I love that the stories are rich and detailed enough to have still have unanswered questions, that whole debates and theories can still be found online or with other fans that you come across.
Toni, Me, and Terri

Toni, Me, and Terri

What do you think makes a good book in this genre?

There’s a stereotype attached to ‘Chick lit’ – that it is mass-produced, cheesy, mindless stories. I don’t find that to be true, if you’re reading the right titles. For me, for a book in this genre to stand out, I have to care about the character, believe that someone like that could exist out there somewhere

A poor book in this genre for me personally is a predictable storyline. There is nothing more disappointing than reading a whole book and realising you could have guessed the outcome 300 pages ago.
I had the weirdest sense of déjà vu throughout the entire book – I had read the book before, but not in the same words.
Talk to me about some specific titles that are special or mean more to you and why. Is there a story behind why you value it? Did it make you feel a certain way when you read it?

A memorable title for me was during my year abroad I read a book called ‘Ti ricordi di me?’ in Italian by Sophie Kinsella, or ‘Remember me?’ in English. An advantage of reading a book in this genre in Italian for me was that the content was light and enjoyable, which I found helpful considering the actual language of the book was a big challenge. The book was a mess by the time I got through it, dog-eared and written all over in pencil. Because the book spoke about a lot everyday topics such as work and relationships and used a lot of everyday language, the vocabulary I learned from it was really useful. I read the same book a couple of years later in English, and I had the weirdest sense of déjà vu throughout the entire book – I had read the book before, but not in the same words.

Another book I loved was called the Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl – breaking my rule of thumb when it comes to non-fiction. It was written by an Australian lady called Shauna Reid and her weight-loss journey over the space of a few years. It was unbelievable how many of her diary entries could have been written by myself.
Who are your favourite authors and why?

Jane Costello and Lauren Weisberger are my ultimate ‘chick lit’ favourites (Lauren Weisberger is the author of The Devil Wear’s Prada). Jane Costello has a brilliant sense of humour, and for me her books have always been very dependable – most follow the stories of three main female protagonists who are friends – so I know exactly what kind of thing I’m going to get by reading the book. Having said that, she does still manage to weave a brilliant and original story for every single one of her characters throughout her books. For me, light entertainment and easy reading.

Jodi Picoult is another. I think the woman is a genius. But as a general rule after reading one of her books I need a good few weeks or even a few months break before reading another, as they go into very complicated, very deep, and very emotional storylines and are often full of sorrow.  They question society and morals. The court room trials are fascinating.

A great middle ground is Cecilia Ahern. Not quite as heavy as Picoult, but covers a wider range of issues than Jane Costello. And there is just a slight  mystical or spiritual edge and sometimes even a hint of the supernatural in some of her books.

J.K Rowling…for obvious reasons.
Where do you most like to buy your books?

I have a Kindle which is great for travelling, or if you need to get hold of a book straight away, but at the minute is in a corner gathering dust. I don’t see the appeal of yet another screen full of data. I buy my books from Waterstones…the closest I’ll get to the feel of a traditional bookshop.
How do you find out about new titles in this genre?

I rely on word of mouth from friends and family to recommend books for me. I find they have a much wider range in taste than me. If it were left solely up to me, I would stay in my comfort zone and just read authors similar to ones I already read. For that reason only, I am part way through a Stephen King book that you recommended to me. I wouldn’t have ever considered reading it otherwise. Likewise for the odd Dan Brown book, and books such as the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Genius works that I would otherwise miss out on.


What are you reading at the moment/looking to read next?

My next aim to find a good title, and buy it in French, Spanish and Italian. Reading books in foreign languages are a lot like study for the first few books you read, and can take a long time. But my long-term aim is to be able to read them for leisure just like any book I would read in English. A brilliant way to combine my two favourite hobbies.
Me and my literary sisters.

Me and my literary sisters.

Toni Cox Talks Non-Fiction and Self-Help Books!

Today’s reader interview is with one of my triplet sisters, Toni. Toni and I are identical sisters, and we were brought up living very closely with each other – same bedroom, same family, all of the same school classes, same college, same university, and mostly the same groups of friends. We even worked in the same shop together for almost two years. In terms of the nature/nurture argument, theoretically we should have identical tastes! But the below interview proves that genes and environment do not necessarily dictate likes and dislikes, and also belief and faith. As you’ll see, Toni is now devoutly religious whereas I am about as atheist as it gets. Toni loves to read self-help books and travel writing, whereas I mainly read fiction. Read on to find out her reasons and motivations behind her book and reading choices.

My beautiful sister - I'm not biased because we're identical. Honest. *looks sheepish.*

My beautiful sister – I’m not biased because we’re identical. Honest. *looks sheepish.*

Please introduce yourself and tell the readers a little bit about you.

My name is Toni and I am 24. I have always loved reading. My parents would comment that my sisters and I would have to take a book everywhere with us, even in the kitchen to make a sandwich! Since a young age I have been interested in science. It grew as I got older to encompass subjects involving the mind and universe, and 3 years ago I became a Christian, specifically, a Latter-Day Saint (commonly known as a Mormon). This dramatically changed how I viewed the world and influenced my reading tastes – not only do I love reading books that educate and entertain me but I am also fascinated to learn about other belief systems, and of course, my own. 

What kind of literature/books do you read?

I have read books ranging from Sophie Kinsella- style (for relaxed entertainment) to books like Bill Bryson’s, still very entertaining but also educational. I have read several self-help books from Paul McKenna (the man is a genius). More recently in my life I have included books that strengthen my faith, including scriptures such as the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. 

Why do these genres speak to you and appeal to you more than others? What is it you love about them?

When I was younger I discovered what people meant when they said you could get lost in a book – it can distract your mind and take you into someone else’s life, make you forget your own trials and tribulations for a while. I loved reading Sophie Kinsella because her books were very easy reading, and therefore relaxing, and also very very funny. Particularly during high school these books helped me keep my mind off my difficulties, and when my mind was whirring, it calmed me down.

Perhaps because of my own desire to improve myself, I began reading some self help books. Some were better than others but the end result was an interest in how people’s minds work, what motivates us, drives us, and helps us. It still continues now, while I read Paul McKenna, I also discovered Dale Carnegie, author of ‘How To Make Friends and Influence People’. Aside from this classic he has written others. When you read them it is like you have put on new glasses – your eyes are opened so much to the behaviour of yourself and others in your everyday life.

Books regarding my religion, and faith as a whole, appeal to me because they are so relevant to my life. Just as it is possible to feel weak emotionally, mentally or physically, it is possible to feel weak spiritually. We believe that just as your body grows weaker when it isn’t fed, so the spirit can grow weaker if not spiritually fed. This is why I read scripture and other books. They uplift me and strengthen my faith. As it is, there are some very funny authors within this genre who are also fantastic spiritual giants, making the genre both uplifting and entertaining at the same time.

When you read self-help books it is like you have put on new glasses – your eyes are opened so much to the behaviour of yourself and others in your everyday life.

Talk to me about some specific titles that are special or mean more to you and why. Is there a story behind why you value it? Did it make you feel a certain way when you read it?

It seems like an obvious answer, but the books that are most special to me are the Book of Mormon and the Bible. These I try to read every day even if it it just one verse. This is essential for my spirituality and I try to study them rather than simply reading. Sometimes I will read them like a novel- front to back, to get enjoyment out of them. This is how it started, and after I fell in love with the books, a desire to really study them grew. I wasn’t always great at this, and sometimes it slips. At these times I can really tell the difference in my life.

 I first started when I was issued a challenge from a couple in my church to read the Book of Mormon in 3 months. There was a quote from one of the Presidents (Prophets) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. This was the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statement. He testified that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.” I realised that no matter how many times I read this amazing book, I will learn something new every single time. There is such a depth to it, it is never ending. It gives me peace, hope and happiness as I read it. The people in it inspire me, It is a learning tool but also a protection and a guide through life. Its teachings are always applicable to me, and for that reason, it will be the book that I read over and over my whole life.

There are two titles that I have read within the last few weeks that have had a profound impact in my life. They are small, but life changing. Stephen E Robinson is the author of ‘Believing Christ’ and ‘Following Christ’. To any member of our church, they are incredibly educating, reassuring and uplifting. They clarify so much that can be confusing or sound complicated in our doctrine, and give you that ‘aha!’ moment. They make people have hope and feel good about themselves. The subject of the former inspired me to give a talk on the same topic at a recent conference, and many people commented that it really helped them. I would recommend them to anyone.

One non-religious book in particular that is special to me is Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’. It was recommended to me in high school by a science teacher. I read it and it utterly fascinated me – Bill Bryson is fantastic at that. He is incredibly funny and makes whatever his subject is gripping to the reader. I went on to study Biology at university, and there I found the book again at a book sale for a very cheap price. I have owned it ever since and have read it several times. This book led me to buy almost every book Bill Bryson has written. 

I read it and it utterly fascinated me – Bill Bryson is fantastic at that. He is incredibly funny and makes whatever his subject is gripping to the reader.

Me on the left and Toni on the right, a couple of years ago.

Me on the left and Toni on the right, a couple of years ago.

Who are your favourite authors and why? 

1) JK Rowling – Isn’t she on everyone’s list? It goes without saying.
2) Paul McKenna – The man is a genius and has made a difference in several areas of my life.
3) Bill Bryson – No one has ever made me laugh so much while attempting to educate me. His books are fascinating and incredibly well researched. To anyone new to his work, read ‘Notes on a Big Country’. You’ll be giggling for ages.
4) John Bytheway- He makes the gospel appealing and accessible to all ages, particularly youth and young adults. He is also a great speaker, very motivational, his talks get a lot of views on youtube. He has written ‘Righteous Warriors’, a book that helped many people understand some of the more tricky chapters of the Book of Mormon, and ‘Of Pigs, Pearls and Prodigals’, a commentary on the parables that Jesus taught in the Bible. 

Is there a good fan base and/or community behind this work or this kind of book?

Sophie Kinsella books have a huge following. I have never been involved in the fan community, but I can believe a large one exists! Those kind of books will always be immensely popular.

As for Paul Mckenna, there are many community boards and Facebook groups, where people discuss their progress and give advice to each other on the work they are doing in that particular area of their lives with the help of his books. He is very successful, the books are very successful. He has a passion for helping his readers and his fan base recognise that.They are passionate about helping each other. The self help genre is huge, absolutely huge. It is a reflection on the way the world is and the way it is progressing. People are wanting to take control of their lives and create their own meaning and happiness. As everyone is different, I believe this genre will just continue to boom.

If you count church membership as a ‘fan base’ for scripture, then I will say that the Church has a membership of 15 million today, and many more people have read and studied the Book Of Mormon. The Bible, in it’s different forms, is said to be the most read book in the world. The specific titles I have mentioned- particularly ‘Believing Christ’ and ‘Following Christ’ have devoted readers, I am one of them!

The self help genre is huge, absolutely huge.

What do you think makes a good book in this genre? 

I won’t pretend to know much about what makes a good author in a genre, but I know what I look out for in a book for myself. If I am entertained while being taught, being presented with something fascinating in a way that I can easily understand, then I will love it. Even better if I can apply these things into my own life, or share them with others. That is what makes a good book for me.

Where do you most like to buy your books?

I am most likely to buy my books from Amazon – they are cheap and I am happy to own second-hand books. If I can read the words and it doesn’t fall apart, it is good enough for me! I have had several books from charity shops, several of my Paul McKenna’s and Bill Bryson’s. Occasionally I will buy from Waterstone’s if I want to treat myself –  I love the atmosphere and layout in there, their displays are lovely. The Works is also a good place for books, particularly when not looking for anything in particular!

If I am entertained while being taught, being presented with something fascinating in a way that I can easily understand, then I will love it.

Me and my triplet sisters. L-R: Terri, Toni, and me.

Me and my triplet sisters. L-R: Terri, Toni, and me.

How do you find out about new titles in this genre?

Paul McKenna’s books are very well publicized because of his huge commercial success. I will usually only buy the book if it seems applicable or helpful to me at the time, but many of them have been. They are often advertised when you go onto websites such as Amazon, and on billboards and shop windows.

Bill Bryson is a travel writer, and actually the only travel writer I have read. His books are usually advertised in Waterstones, as there is an anticipation for his books.  The same applies for Sophie Kinsella – she is a bestselling author.

Books in my religious genre are sometimes quoted in talks given by our leaders, mentioned within other books within the genre and become quite popular in the church and are therefore shared by word of mouth. A couple of my books I have bought after seeing copies that belong to my friends, and a couple of them came from swaps at church. Amazon is very good at recommending similar books to the one you just bought, several have come from there. When I visited Utah 2 years ago, I visited the church’s book store, it is huge, and wonderful, I was in heaven! They also have 2 small LDS bookstores in England nearby our temples in Preston and London. 

What are you reading at the moment/looking to read next?

My next book will be a kind of long-term project so to speak. It is called Jesus the Christ by James E Talmage. It is a very famous book in our church, and a great way to get to know our Saviour. It is quite a heavy read- lot’s of big words!- but one that is very, very much worth it. 

I am hoping to have more time to read soon, and so I am looking for suggestions from the owner of this blog! I have already been recommended a book called ‘A Man Called Ove’, and so I hope to read that soon.

Toni (far left) is one of my four sisters. I am in the centre.

Toni (far left) is one of my four sisters. I am in the centre.

Coming soon: an interview with the third Cox triplet, Terri Cox. Look out for it!

The Headscarf Revolutionaries by Brian Lavery

In this review I’ll be discussing Brian Lavery‘s The Headscarf Revolutionaries and also the book launch that took place on the 26th May at the Maritime Museum in Hull – in fact, my very first attendance at a book launch!


I would just like to take the opportunity to thank Brian for sending me a review copy of the book – I’m extremely grateful and will take good care of this signed copy!

In the harsh arctic seas of 1968, three trawlers from Hull’s fleet sank in just three weeks. 58 men died. Lillian Bilocca put down her filleting knife, wrote a petition, and stormed into action. With her army of fishwives she took her battle to the docks and led a raid on Parliament. They changed the shipping laws.

Lillian Bilocca became an international celebrity. The lone survivor of the tragedies made headlines too. In a tight fishing community, it’s dangerous to stand out.

What I should first point out is that, while the fishing industry has been slowly dying out in Hull in recent years, the culture and camaraderie of those times are not lost. My granddad on both sides worked in the fishing industry. So did my parents. I come from a thoroughly working-class background right up until today’s generation and while mine is the first generation in my family to not be involved in the fishing industry, it’s still been very much a part of my life growing up. This isn’t just Hull’s history, it’s mine and my family’s. And that’s why I was so pleased when Brian sent me this book.

In fact, I took this home with me to Hull one weekend and my mother, who is by no means a regular reader, took the book and wouldn’t let of it for a week. I had to drive back home without it. She read it extremely quickly, and even before I’d gotten my eyes on it I knew it was accurate due to her commenting every now and then, “Yep, I remember that. Yeah, your granddad was part of that…” etc.

VIP at the book launch - not too shabby!

VIP at the book launch – not too shabby!

The book tells the story of the triple trawler disaster, in which three trawlers (the St. Romanus, The Kingston Peridot, and The Ross Cleveland) sank between January and February 1968, killing all but one man on board. It also tells the story of the safety campaign that followed, spearheaded by Lillian Bilocca, in which she and a number of other trawlers’ wives fought, against much hatred and death threats, for better working conditions for men at sea.

His words and descriptions are factual and yet artistic, which makes it an enjoyable read for me, primarily a reader of fiction. This book is described as “literary non-fiction” by the author himself and that couldn’t be a more accurate description, as the writing is matter-of-fact and yet poetic at the same time:

Men are rightly fearful when the ship climbs and drops, but that becomes terror if she moves from side to side. Huge waves must be faced head on. Taken sideways, they can send a ship to the bottom of the sea in seconds…When it goes wrong no one has time to act. Only luck can save her. Survival is by accident…If you are on deck, you are gone. Below deck, in a blink, the ceiling is now where one of the walls once was. The floor goes from you as you are thrown.The freezing sea is through the portholes. In the remaining minutes you drown or freeze to death. Your lungs will collapse in the cold before you get the chance to drown. If you get to a life raft a further miracle needs you to be far from the ship as she sinks or she will take you and your raft with her.

Despite the fact that the author Brian Lavery, who was a classmate of mine at Hull University (you can learn more about him in my interview with him here) is originally from Glasgow, his understanding and love for Hull shines through the pages. Even in the early pages of this book in which he is really just setting the scene, he manages to capture that kind of close community that Hull had on its streets years ago, when everybody knew everyone and looked out for one another.

It turned out Robert’s uncle Skipper Philip Gay of the Ross Cleveland had given the deck boy his old gear. Robert was Skipper Gay’s sister’s lad and he had been asked by the mother to “talk to the boy” – a euphemism for “talk him out of it.” Philip Gay paid lip service to this. He knew he would never be able to talk the boy out of his chosen adventure….

Jim also knew the cook Brian Wilson’s missus had just had a baby girl and he noticed too that Tommy Williams’ boys, John and Melvin, just twenty-one and twenty-two respectively, were aboard. Tommy was a pal of Jim’s dad, Fred.

Brian did a fantastic job of stirring emotions and building up the reader’s loyalty to Lily Bilocca, Mary Denness, Yvonne Blenkinsop and Christine Jensen. What he also did was enable the reader to understand that even though the abuse, death threats, and resistance that these women faced were terrible, the circumstances of the time meant that reactions such as these were inevitable. Many trawlermen did not want women and wives in the public eye, did not want them interfering with their jobs. Many other wives also believed the women to be trouble-makers. Brian could have painted a black-and-white picture in which he outlined the abuse and portayed the women as heroes and the public as quite simply bad, unreasonable people. But his book goes into much more depth than that, and gives a rich cultural and historical background which explains that, whilst horrible and wrong, the opposition was born from tradition, rigid rules, superstition and fear. Brian allows us therefore not only to understand and get to know these brave, influential women, but also to understand society at that time.

Brian also gives the reader an insight into the personal lives of these men and women; he did not rely solely on media and newspaper coverage – his research was extensive. You really feel like you know the characters as people, rather than figureheads. You get to know their families, their home lives, their fears and their struggles. It brings Hull’s history back to life.

‘Hiya, Mam. I’ve put the kettle on – and I got your favourites – custard creams.’

‘Oh, that sounds grand, Virginia.’

‘How did it go in London?’

‘I’ll tell you all about it later. Go and put the kettle on, pet. It was great though. We have done it, love. Them politicians said we’d get all we asked for. As we left that fella Peart said to me, “We’ll do all we can, love.” I told him to talk straight and he did. He called me love, so he’s all right in my book.’

‘That’s fine, Mam.’

The narrative and story-telling in this book is incredibly authentic and educational. Brian captures the speech and dialect of the people of Hull in 1968 perfectly. He also paints a picture of Hull in the 60’s that is so vivid, it makes the reader feel like they are there. His characterisation of society at that time is spot on, too. He captures the resilience of both women and men who lived through current hard times:

When Chrissie put her phone down in her little terraced house in Hessle Road’s Flinton Grove, she had to smile. Her trawlerman husband did not even let her go to the cinema unless he was ashore. She would be in big trouble when he got back from sea. Like a lot of the women, she feared the wrath of an angry husband, chastising her for “dabbling in men’s business”, more than she feared any fight with the bosses. But she was determined.

Then he got angry and felt he was letting down his wife and baby by dying. He would not allow that to happen…Just keep going, Harry. Just keep going.

The book taught me so much about Hull’s history that I personally knew nothing about. It’s a shame that before this book and before the press coverage, many people like me have no idea about the tragic and triumphant history of their own city and their own roots. Each city and community needs a Brian to help highlight and remind them of its past.

The Book Launch

Brian signing copies of the book.

Brian signing copies of the book.

On the 26th May, I attended the book launch for The Headscarf Revolutionaries at the Hull Maritime Museum. I was incredibly proud of Brian. As cheesy as this sounds, we all recognised Brian as someone who was incredibly talented and likely to forge yet another successful career (before university he enjoyed a successful career as a newspaper journalist.)

The book launch was attended by the Lord Mayor Mary Glew (as pictured below) and featured singers singing fishing ballads, press coverage, and a unveiling of plaques in honour of the four women who campaigned on behalf of the trawlers. There was a Q&A with the publisher Martin Goodman of Barbican Press (a publisher which I interned for last year) and a discussion with the audience. It was a packed-out event and a real triumph for Brian, Barbican Press, for the trawlers’ wives and Hull, City of Culture.

During the Q&A, Brian told Martin that the story had been “overlooked for far too long”. He stressed that he needed to keep in mind the feelings of those involved in the story and who are still alive today. He was considerate of others before beginning this project (which, I should point out, was his PhD thesis.) However, as he pointed out, “The story HAD to be told.” And he’s told it extremely well.

Brian Lavery with Lord Mayor of Hull Mary Glew.

Brian Lavery with Lord Mayor of Hull Mary Glew.


ITV news attended the big event.

ITV news attended the big event.

It’s worth noting that at the book launch, Mary Denness, one of the women who campaigned along with Big Lil,, announced this book to be “the most authentic account of what happened in 1968 that I’ve ever read, and I would recommend it to anyone.”

I second that, Mary.

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