I have been blogging about books and reading for nearly three years now. Despite this, I suffer from major impostor syndrome when it comes to the blog. As if one day, someone’s going to jump out from behind my mountainous TBR, shut down my Twitter, lock my WordPress account and say “You’re not really a book blogger, you’re just a reader with ideas above your station!”
Most of the time, my rational brain can shout down the impostor syndrome. After all, being a book blogger requires no more qualification than being a reader with a desire to share the book love with other like-minded folk – it isn’t like you have to pass exams to be allowed into the fold. But sometimes, the little Doubting Thomas in my brain does make it hard to put myself and the blog out there in the world. It was a good twelve months, for example, before I plucked up the courage to email a publicist asking for a proof, or to approach publishing types via social media. And I’ve never done any form of blog ‘networking’….until now!
Yes, nearly three years after deciding to begin this book blogging malarkey, I finally plucked up the courage to attend a blogger event thanks to the lovely folk over at Orion Books, who sent through an invite to their blogger and author event Orion On Tour. The aim of the event was to get publishing out of London and touring the country, taking books and authors out to meet us eager readers, booksellers and bloggers who aren’t blessed with easy access to the capital.
Pushing aside the whimpers of fear from my inner introvert, I said yes to the invite and, a week later, found myself standing in the upstairs room of one of Birmingham’s trendy bars mingling with other like-minded souls and being introduced to some of Orion’s current and upcoming titles.
First up, and fitting nicely with the idea of moving out of London were the Hometown Tales series, which aims to celebrate regional diversity in publishing. The books, each of which are themed around a particular area of the UK, feature two writers – one established and one previously unpublished – writing about the places that they think of as home. I snagged copies of Hometown Tales Midlands; featuring Costa-shortlisted author Kerry Young and newcomer Carolyn Sanderson, and Hometown Tales Yorkshire, featuring memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink and new voice Victoria Hennison. I really love the concept of these books and am looking forward to exploring both, as well as to seeking out more in the series, which currently includes tales centred around Birmingham, Glasgow, Highlands & Hebrides, Lancashire, South Cost and Wales.
I also picked up a copy of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, a new fantasy title from Gollancz, which is set in a world where the people are born grey and damned and the aforementioned Belle’s control the power of beauty. The novel follows Camellia Beauregard, a young woman seeking the become the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family. Although not a huge reader of fantasy, I picked this up because of the unusual premise. It sounds as if it’s going to take a look at the concept of what it is to be beautiful – and I think there will be some political shenanigans and intricate court politics that Camellia will have to contend with too.
A Double Life by Flynn Berry was the next title to catch my eye, primarily because it purports to be loosely based on the disappearance of Lord Lucan. The novel follows Claire, a young woman obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the disappearance of her privileged, aristocratic father. With elements of mystery and a dash of the thrilling, this sounded like a page-turning summer read.
My final pick of the evening was the Orion Fiction Highlights 2019, which has excerpts from upcoming Orion titles due for publication next year. I haven’t had the opportunity to read them all yet but Alex Michaelides’ thriller The Silent Patient, due in February, sound like it’s one to watch. This thriller focuses on Alicia, a woman whose apparently perfect life dissolves when she shoots her husband five times and then never speaks another word, and forensic psychotherapist Theo, who has been consumed with Alicia’s case for five years and is the only person able to unravel the mystery of why she did it.
Claire Empson’s Him was another thriller title that intrigued me, with it’s promise of a doomed love affair that has come back to haunt traumatised, mute Catherine. And on a totally different note, I also liked the sound of Laura Kemp’s Bring Me Sunshine, about a timid young woman whose new job requires her to front the morning show of Sunshine FM, a local radio station in Mumbles. It sounds a little bit like Libby Page’s The Lido, which was a charming and heart-warming novel that I’ve recently read and very much enjoyed.
I had a fabulous evening and met some great people, including the lovely Caroline (@thedivinewrite1) who blogs over at The Divine Write, and fellow Book Connector and psychological thriller author Sally Jenkins, who I hope to feature on a Q&A at some point in the future. Thank you to Sam Eades and to Orion Books for hosting such a friendly and welcoming event and giving me the opportunity to tick another thing off my ‘I Really AM A Book Blogger!’ checklist! I definitely won’t be so wary in the future of the dreaded ‘networking’ and very much hope you’ll be back doing more events near me soon!