Not the Tudors.

King John: England, Magna Carta and the making of a tyrantDid anyone watch David Starkey’s Magna Carta on BBC2 a few weeks ago?

If you enjoyed the story of King John being bullied by his barons into agreeing that life, liberty and property were ‘no longer wholly at the king’s untrammelled disposal’ you might enjoy this new biography ‘King John –England, Magna Carta and the making of a tyrant’ by Stephen Church.

Billed as a definitive and ‘visceral’ biography of King John, it’s published to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The author draws on contemporary sources to tell John’s story from childhood to accession, rebellion and civil war and explains what went wrong.

Have you read a novel that mentions a place in Leeds?

Literary%20map[1]We’ve been updating our Leeds Reads literary map of places in Leeds mentioned in novels and we’ve now got around 60 novels on it.

Please get in touch if you know of any other novels we can add. They should be in the catalogue so we can link to them or ones we’d want to buy so need to be in print.



Thomas Cromwell – anything like Mark Rylance?


Bring up the bodiesSo farewell Wolf Hall (until Hilary Mantel finishes the third part of the Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies trilogy ‘The Mirror and the Light’). Was Thomas Cromwell as enigmatic as Mark Rylance’s portrayal or was he much more a real baddie? Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII's henchman

Here’s some biographies of the main protagonists ….

Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII’s henchman by Patrick Coby. Thomas Cromwell served as chief minister of Henry VIII from 1531 to 1540. Many of the momentous events of the 1530s are attributed to his agency. This biography shows the true face of a Machiavellian Tudor statesman of no equal

Thomas Cromwell: the untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant by Tracy Bowman. Reviled as a Machiavellian schemer who stopped at nothing in his quest for power, Thomas Cromwell was also a loving husband, father and guardian, a witty and generous host, and a loyal and devoted servant. With new insights into Cromwell’s character, his family life and his close relationships with both Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, the book, examines the life, loves and legacy of the man who changed the shape of England forever.

Henry VIII: the life and rule of England's NeroHenry VIII: the life and rule of England’s Nero by John Matusiak. 500 years after he ascended the throne, the reputation of England’s best known king is, it seems, being rehabilitated and subtly sanitised. Here, Tudor historian John Matusiak paints an absorbingly intimate portrait of a man wholly unfit for power: his personality, his beliefs, his relationships, his follies, his hollow triumphs, his bitter disappointments.

The divorce of Henry VIII: the untold story by Catherine Fletcher. The backdrop is war-torn Renaissance Italy, combining a gripping family saga with the highly charged political battle of the Tudors & the Vatican, it reveals the extraordinary story of history’s most infamous divorce

Our man in Rome: Henry VIII and his Italian ambassador by Catherine Fletcher. Set against the backdrop of war-torn Renaissance Italy, ‘Our Man in Rome’ weaves together tales from the grubby underbelly of Tudor politics.

The creation of Anne Boleyn: in seach of the Tudors’ most notorious queen by Susan Bordo Part biography, The creation of Anne Boleyn: in search of the Tudors' most notorious queenpart cultural history, ‘The Creation of Anne Boleyn’ is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination

The Boleyns: the rise & fall of a Tudor family by D. M. Loades. The fall of Anne Boleyn and her brother George is the classic drama of the Tudor era. The Boleyns had long been an influential English family. This title tells the tale of family rivalry and intrigue set against Henry’s VIII’s court

 Mary Boleyn: ‘the great and infamous whore’ by Alison Weir Mary Boleyn: 'the great and infamous whore'Mary Boleyn is remembered by posterity as a ‘great and infamous whore’. She was the mistress of two kings, Francois I of France and Henry VIII of England and sister to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. She may secretly have borne Henry a child and it was because of his adultery with Mary that his marriage to Anne was annulled.

 Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish queen: a biography by Giles Tremlett Reformation, revolution and Tudor history would all have been vastly different without Catherine of Aragon. This biography is the first in more than four decades to be dedicated entirely to the tenacious woman. It draws on fresh material from Spain to trace the dramatic events of her life through Catherine of Aragon’s own eyes


David McConochie wins the fifth annual Book Illustration Competition

mcconochie_bindingIllustrator David McConochie has won the fifth annual Book Illustration Competition, a partnership between The Folio Society and House of Illustration. The prize is  a commission worth £5,000 to illustrate The Folio Book of Ghost Stories to be published in September.  Competition entrants had to create a cover for the book, and illustrations for three of its stories: The Treasure of Abbot Thomas by MR James, A Tale of an Empty House by EF Benson, and The Upper Berth by F Marion Crawford.


The longlist of 26 can be viewed here and there are some wonderfully atmospheric pictures.

McConochie beat nearly 400 other entries from 24 countries. Runners-up were announced as Emma Buckley, Jamie Clarke, Imogen Clifton, Charlie Dixon and Carrie May.

Susan Hill was on the panel and commented: ‘It has been a great pleasure to be involved in the 2015 Book Illustration Competition, I am so impressed with the standard of entries, the future of the industry looks very bright indeed.’

Editor of the book and panellist Mandy Kirkby commented: ‘David’s illustrations are beautiful and chilling. I think they work so well with the stories which often, as so many ghost stories do, leave a great deal to the imagination. He has closed the gap for the reader, but still leaves a little left over for us to think about.’


Songs inspired by books @TheBookshopBand

The Bookshop BandThe Bookshop Band  write songs inspired by books. What could be better!

Four years ago in Bath they collaborated with their local independent bookshop ‘Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights’ “to inject music into author events and this has led to four recorded albums, tours, festival appearances, praise and airplay from Bob Harris and other BBC Radio presenters and even a commission from the V&A Museum.”

Their Songs (check out the full list) have been based on a variety of books, such as -

And Other Dystopias’ – Dark themes in literature

Revolutions’ -Revolution, reinvention, revelation and reformation

‘Into the Farthest Reaches’ – Extreme people in extreme predicaments

The wide range includes Rachel Joyce’s Perfect to Tim Winton’s Eyrie and they’ve created over a hundred songs from books so far. They are currently looking for sponsorship to record further songs


Jewish Book Week Feb 21 – March 1

The dovekeepersTo celebrate Jewish Book Week, here’s four novels you might enjoy from 70AD to current times. This literary festival takes place in London, and is a nine day festival to celebrate Jewish literature, ideas and culture. For more information

The dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman -Rated 5* by three readers. The lives of four sensuous, bold and remarkable women intersect in the year 70AD, in the desperate days of the siege of Masada, when supplies are dwindling and the Romans are drawing near. All are dovekeepers, and all are keepers of secrets – about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love

A replacement lifeThe Boston girl by Anita Diamant -Told against the backdrop of World War I, and written with the same immense emotional impact that has made Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, ‘The Boston Girl’ is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in the early 20th century, and a window into the lives of all women seeking to understand the world around them

The emperor of lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg -From one of Scandinavia’s most critically acclaimed and bestselling authors, ‘The Emperor of Lies’ chronicles the tale of Rumkowski’s monarchical rule over a quarter of a million Jews. 5*

A replacement life by Boris Fishman -A failing young Russian American journalist’s life is unexpectedly transformed when he forges Holocaust restitution claims for his rogue grandfather and his friends.

Writers bring fiction to life with #TwitterFictionFestival.

Twitter Fiction Festival 2012Amateur writers can submit their ideas from 2nd March to become featured in the author showcase of the third #TwitterFiction festival which takes place from 11th to 15th May — 25 spots are available. Anyone can also join in by creating fiction on the spot Fiction Festivalusing the hashtag #TwitterFiction.

The festival invites authors to create original fiction using the Twitter platform –  to “embrace, explore and develop the art of storytelling on Twitter”, with fiction that uses Twitter functionality creatively strongly encouraged.

Famous authors participating include Jackie Collins, Margaret Atwood and Jojo Moyes as well as Lauren Beukes, Chuck Wendig, Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler, and Anna Todd.