On Wednesday night I was exceedingly lucky to get an invite to Quercus’s Word of Mouth Bestsellers evening ( or ingeniously named WOMBs for short. I love an acronym) This event, to show case their upcoming big releases usually takes place annually in London. But like many things this year, alternative plans were made and they went online and book lovers everywhere were glued to their laptops and this little Scottish bookworm was grateful to attend virtually. Thank you to Quercus and Tandem Collective for pulling off such a great event.
This was the hottest ticket in town and the highlight of my social calendar since lockdown began. As part of attending the event, you were in with a chance of receiving a box of goodies/proofs from the publisher. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, as they were on a first come first served basis. Plus, an invite was enough. But I was getting major FOMO seeing everyone else opening their boxes on social media. So when the postwoman turned up at my doorstep brandishing a big box on Wednesday morning, it was like Christmas. Postcards, bookmarks, chocolate and the piece de resistance – 3 beautiful proofs from their upcoming releases.
After a few technical issues and using ZOOM for the very first time (yes, I’ve got this far into a pandemic without using it) it was time to enjoy (and take notes, because I’m a geek)
The authors and books being promoted were:
The Smash Up – Ali Benjamin
Alonement – Francesca Spector
Women On Top Of The World – Lucy Anne Holmes
Madam – Phoebe Wynne
Black Girl Finance – Selina Flavours
Sista, Sister – Candice Brathwaite
The Final Revival Of Opal And Nev – Dawnie Walton
The Perfect Lie – Jo Spain
The Fear Fighter Manual – Luvvie Ajayi Jones
The Prophets – Robert Jones Jr
I Knew This Was A Bad Idea – Sarah Knight
I’m here with all the goss and to help you navigate through these new, must read releases before they’ve even hit the shelves. Here are my highlights. There is something for everyone.
The Smash Up sounds electrifying and after a quick sneek peek reading, I’m ready to join the fan club this book is already garnering. Set during Trump coming to power in 2016 it is “unrelenting in its satire… Benjamin creates a world of social media algorithms, extreme polarization, the collapsing of identity into tweet sized spaces, the spectre of violence can be found even in the quietest places”
“Alonement: how to be alone and absolutely own it – celebrating and valuing the time you spend alone, regardless of your relationship status. It gives dignity and value to solitude, in a hyper connected society. When alone time isn’t lonely, it’s alonement”
YES! I am here for this. Ever since I heard about this book I’ve been so excited, it’s one of my most anticipated reads of next year. Francesca re-evaluated her life and as a new years resolution in January 2019 she embarked on enjoying and spending more time on her own. And she’s been practicing it ever since. She spoke so thoughtfully on the subject and how alone time has become even more important during lockdown. Whether it’s running, going to a cafe or even going on holiday, always make plans for yourself. Francesca has embraced the positivity and wants to encourage us all to have more solitude skills.
Madam, Phoebe Wynne gave an atmospheric candle lit reading perfect for this dark, gothic debut. “For 150 years, above the Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat as a beacon of excellence. A boarding school for girls, it promises a future where it’s pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’. Rose Christie, a 26 year old Classics teacher, is the first new hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose feels overwhelmed in the face of this elite establishment, but soon after her arrival she begins to understand that she may have more to fear than her own ineptitude.
When Rose stumbles across the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor – a woman whose ghost lingers over everything and who no one will discuss – she realises that there is much more to this institution than she has been led to believe. As she uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, Rose becomes embroiled in a battle that will threaten her sanity as well as her safety”
Sista, Sister is Candice Brathwaite’s much anticipated second book after the hugely successful I Am Not Your Baby Mother. “This book is a compilation of essays about all the things Candice wishes someone had talked to her about when she was a young Black girl growing up in London. From family and money to Black hair and fashion, as well as sex and friendships between people of different races…this will have another profound impact on conversations about Black Lives Matter”
Candice brought the energy and everyone was buzzing during her talk. She covered topics about race, Black love, following up a best seller and knowing your self worth. She also came out with my favourite line of the evening “I’m an ex sex worker who can’t cook. That doesn’t mean I’m any less deserving of love”
The Final Revival Of Opal And Nev, “Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude. She believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together.
But just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene in 1970’s New York City, a rival band brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert where Opal and Nev are performing.
Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also act as a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially Black women, who dare to speak their truth”
A book about pride, representation and responsibility. Dawnie Walton said “Being a Black American feels political. I wrote Opal to be someone I would have looked up to” Recommended for fans of Daisy Jones And The Six, I can’t wait to read this.
The Fear Fighter Manual: Lessons From A Professional Troublemaker, I was so inspired listening to Luvvie talk. Her TED talk has been viewed 5 million times, but she turned them down twice, they wouldn’t let her turn them down a third. As she said “Take up space, don’t wait…our voices are never to be silenced” and “You have ALL the right, to take up ALL the space… I wish I had this book 10 years ago”
“A hilarious and powerful book that talks about how to tackle fear – that everlasting hater – and live boldly and audaciously in spite of all the reasons we have to cower…We have to become professional troublemakers: people who are committed to not letting fear talk them out of the things they need to do or say”
The Prophets “In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose of James Baldwin to characterise the forceful, enduring bond of love, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity”
This is a book that has been 13 years in the making. He knew he couldn’t give up as he heard “whispers from my ancestors to keep writing” He spoke so powerfully and inspirationally about this book about a need for more “Black queer love stories…and Black queer characters” He told about in some old African cultures there was no word for homosexuality, because they didn’t see the difference, love was love. I could have listened to him all night. And I think I’m going to have my heart broken by this book.
2021 looks like an exciting time for book lovers, authors and publishers alike. And hopefully the most taxing question we will be asking ourselves next year is “Which book should I read first?”