State of the TBR November 2014


Nov 2014 TBRWell, here’s the TBR, and that’s not doing too badly, is it? I have a little gap which should include two sewing books I’ve loaned to a friend, but it’s all one on shelf! However … I did only manage to finish 6 books in October (and one on 1 November) and I do have a fairly substantial TBR on my Kindle, too.

Nov 2014 Kindle TBRThe Kindle TBR does look lower than last time, although I have moved some books into the “Read” category that I had forgotten to move before. It’s a start, though, and it’s not actually bigger, at least … By the way, I’ve become a little jealous of certain friends’ smaller Kindles with their no keyboard (I have only ever used the keyboard on this one once!), touch screens and snazzy cases. But I am mean, so I’m waiting until this one wears out before I go for an upgrade.  Excitingly, on here is the complete Anthony Trollope, and I am planning on reading the Barchester Chronicles, one a month, starting next January (I’m also going to re-do Galsworthy’s “Forsyte Saga”, 2 months on, one month off, through the year, along with Heaven-Ali).  If anyone fancies joining in with these challenges, please do pipe up!

Nov 2014 currently readingAfter my panicky post about being stuck in the middle of a massive book, you’d think I would have mended my ways and be reading fewer books concurrently. However, this is not so. Oh dear! As well as the Georgette Heyer which I recently finished and will be reviewed soon, I’m reading four other books – three in print and one e-book.

I’m actually getting on OK with the Sartre book by Iris Murdoch – I’m more than half way through and I certainly understood the chapter on language and am getting something out of it. Nov 2014 currently reading 2

“Learner  English” is fantastic: it’s all about how people’s first language ‘bleeds’ into and affects their production of English. It goes chapter by chapter through the major world language groups, and certainly a) backs up some things that I’ve guessed about those languages and b) is teaching me a great deal about how other languages are constructed. Fascinating stuff indeed!

I’ve also started “Underground to Everywhere”, which my friend Verity gave me for my Secret Santa Christmas present last year; that’s fascinating stuff, too, with so much detail in the text and side bars, and illustrations such as maps and posters. All good stuff and feeds my strong liking for transport-themed books.

Nov 2014 currently reading 3On the Kindle, I’m reading “The Horologicon” by Mark Forsyth, which was a cheapy offer on Amazon a little while ago. It’s a compendium of interesting and little-known words, based around the time of day at which they’re used, so you have all the words for having a lie-in or a hangover together, etc. It makes for a lively and interesting read, although I have heard of a few of the words so far, so they can’t be THAT obscure. It’s a good book to dip into, so having it on the Kindle is perfect for those little blocks of time.

So, these will take me a while to get through, especially as I’m using NaNoWriMo (national Novel Writing Month) to work up my research notes on Iris Murdoch into something in writing, at least. I’m not sure whether my book will be shorter than the 50,000 words NaNoWriMo helps you to produce, but I know that I wouldn’t normally spend Saturday morning writing up my notes on books about book groups, so it must be having some effect. I hope it doesn’t clash with my reading time too much, however.

Nov 2014 coming upAnyway, if I do manage to get to them, here are the next books on my TBR. I have an interesting-looking history of the Ordnance Survey (it has very small print, so I’m glad that I’ve got my new glasses sorted out); a book on the history of Birmingham, Liberty’s excellent how-to-sew book, the biography of Puffin editor Kaye Webb, and the novel “Americanah” which our friend Bridget gave us for a wedding present and I’ve been desperate to read for some time. The last book in that little lot is the non-fiction book on exploration I’ll be reviewing for the first 2015 edition of the Shiny New Books newsletter. Exciting!

What are you reading? Are you formulating any reaching challenges for 2015? I’d love to hear about them!

Book reviews – The Heavenly Twins and Ten Pound Pom


Oct 2014 TBRTwo e-books today – but that’s all they’ve got in common. After my slightly panicky post about getting stuck, I have been making the effort to finish books I’m half-way through before starting more, and things certainly have freed up a bit now I’ve got “The Heavenly Twins” finished. Having said that, it was a jolly good read and I’m very glad that my friend recommended and lent it to me! I’d been half-reading “Ten Pound Pom” for a while, too, so was glad to get that one done and dusted, and the Kindle TBR has gone down as a result, too!

Sarah Grand – “The Heavenly Twins”

(paper copy lent to me by my friend Laura; e-book downloaded from for convenience)

One of the first of the ‘New Woman’ novels of the 1890s (in fact, according to the introduction in my paper copy, Sarah Grand coined the phrase!), this is a hefty but rewarding tome which explores love, marriage, education, gender relations, moral equality, heredity, sexually transmitted diseases, friendship, goodness and decency, all in the one volume (originally published as a triple-decker, although I’m not sure that would have helped much!). This can make it feel a little ‘baggy’. Added to that, the structure is unconventional, darting between the protagonists, leaving the twins of the title alone for much of the narrative, which centres on them and two young women entering the marriage market and encountering very different forms of bad marriages, with the entire final section narrated by one of the previously somewhat minor male characters. But then, the people and situations that it portrays, from syphilitic babies through abandoned mistresses and cross-dressing heiresses to made wives – are somewhat unconventional for the time, too.

Having made it seem like a worthy tome covering the Issues Of The Day, I will now say that it’s also very readable!  It tells a good set of stories with engaging characters (particularly Angelica and Diavolo, the twins of the title), who are not just ciphers imbued with random characteristics and perspectives for dry pedagogical purposes, but are in the main rounded and interesting in their own rights in addition to being representative of various human states and fates. We’re forever darting below the surface of major and minor characters to examine their backgrounds, attitudes, motives and feelings, which makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

It’s not as simple as woman good / men bad, and shows the nascent movement towards women’s education and growth, particularly personified in the character of Evadne, self-educated to a degree and capable of thinking for herself but battered by the limitations of the patriarchal society in which she finds herself and without quite the resources to protect herself. There’s a good introduction which, like the paper edition itself (reproduced smudgily from the original printers’ plates and annotated charmingly with student notes by my friend), is a work of classic 1990s reclamation of women’s narrative works, quoting Showalter here and other feminist writers there – a bit of a trip down memory lane for me in that sense.

Read this if: you like reclaimed women’s writing; you are interested in gender relations and social history; you have read other ‘New Woman’ writers like George Gissing; you like a good story and don’t mind a few lessons and morals planted along the way.

Niall Griffiths – “Ten Pound Pom”

(e-book bought on special offer)

I do tend to download bargain of the day Kindle books, and this was presumably one of those.

A dual narrative of the author’s pre-adolescent trip to, stay in and journey through Australia with his family in the late 1970s alongside his Noughties return to the country with his brother and various companions from their Australian days to retrace their steps and see if anything has been left that they recognise. Interesting contrasts are thrown up and there is much musing on the connection between his childhood and current selves, especially when confronted with buildings, monuments, signs and views which have remained there, unchanged, in the interim between his visits.

The language is informal and I got a little annoyed with the use of “tho” for “though”; there were also a few slightly traumatic scenes from his childhood memories involving animals (nothing unbearable, though) (tho). It was competently done and interesting to a point, but it ultimately left me a bit cold, perhaps because of the masculine drinking culture and preoccupations, perhaps because I read it in bits and pieces.

Read this if: you like travel books, dual-time narratives, books by men.


A quick note for completeness’ sake that I read Tucker Max’s “The Bookstrapper’s Guide to Book Marketing” in pdf format, which was sent to me by the author after I saw an offer in a podcast transcription. I enjoyed this book and found some good tips in it, however there were some issues with links and it’s actually been (temporarily) taken down from bookselling sites, so I’m not going to recommend it right now in case you can’t go off and find a copy for yourself.


I’m currently reading Iris Murdoch’s book on Sartre (yes, I am reading it, finally!) and That Is It for the moment, so then I’ll have a clean slate again.

What are you reading? Have you read the Sarah Grand or any other ‘New Woman’ novels? Do you like my new “Read this if” feature or do the reviews tell you that anyway?

Is it just actually that I read too MUCH?


tall pile of books

This many! This is how many I’m reading RIGHT NOW!

No, no, of course I don’t mean I read TOO MUCH in general, too many books over the course of the year. There’s no such thing, is there? There’s no better thing than reading lots of books (hobby: no better hobby; obviously it’s better to be running around giving all your possessions to Good Causes and generally doing good, but you know what I mean).

But I haven’t really finished many books recently – my last review was THIRTEEN DAYS ago and I’ve only finished one book since then, which is waiting to be reviewed. I do have gaps, but this seems particularly shocking. So I have started to wonder if it’s the number of books I am reading concurrently that’s messing things up a bit.

Here’s the thing: do you read one book at a time, or many? And, here’s the most important thing: do you think you’re more ‘productive’ if you only read one at a time – do you actually get through MORE books that way?

This is what I’ve always said I have on the go at any one time:

  • One larger or more “special” book (maybe a Persephone or hardback) which I read in the house, at the breakfast table, etc. This sometimes extends into two books, for example I won’t read a Persephone while eating, so I might have a Persephone on the night stand and a political biography, say, at the table.
  • One smaller and more portable book for in my handbag when popping into Birmingham or going on longer journeys. Now I’m trying to actually READ the books I have packed onto my Kindle, this can take electronic or paper form.

That should be doable, shouldn’t it. But the problem is, it doesn’t really work like that. Here’s what I’m reading at the moment …

  • Friday to Saturdayish I’m reading the New Statesman on my tablet at the table. Sunday to Tuesdayish, it’s the Saturday Guardian newspaper. Sometimes there’s a bit of struggling slowly through an Icelandic newspaper going on with the tablet, too, although that’s usually upstairs near my dictionaries. I LOVE the New Statesman and I have not once, in the year I’ve been subscribing, experienced Mag Lag with it (when you are still reading the last issue when the new one arrives), even though it’s an (almost) weekly. I like the e-version of the newspaper because I can skim it more. But these two do take away time from reading at the table.
  • I’m currently reading a big fat 19th century novel on the Kindle, which a friend lent to me in paper form, but I wasn’t doing well with the huge unwieldy paperback, so I downloaded a free copy from I’m reading this at the table and in bed, and on the bus.
  • I have a book of essays from newspapers that I’m reading at the gym. Often the gym book is the same as the handbag book, but I don’t want to sweat all over my Kindle, so started this. I cycle and read for about an hour to 90 minutes a week, so that’s not going to get through much book, even at my speed of reading (for those concerned about my ability to read and exercise vigorously, I do an odd and self-invented form of interval training whereby I pedal very much harder every 5th page).
  • I have a hardback book on the history of the Tube which I picked off the TBR to look at and haven’t really looked at properly yet.
  • I have the terrible, terrible shame of Iris Murdoch’s book on Sartre, which isn’t very big but is a bit too difficult for me – so it’s “being read” but then being hidden on the back sofa under a pile of handbags …

I think that’s it, and it doesn’t seem too bad. Is it just because I’m reading a  big novel that I’ve got a bit stuck and low on the reviewing front? Should I just knuckle down and read one at a time? After all, I don’t have a problem with “having” to read a particular book, as I read my TBR in acquisition order and don’t get to make many choices based on reading mood there. Or should I carry on as I am?

How do you do it? Have you noticed yourself getting through more books using one method or the other, single or many reads, if you’ve tried both? Or should I just go on holiday or get a cold and get them all finished?


Change your book title and boost sales …?


Liz and Business books

Liz and her books. Photo by Simon Howes

I was setting up a post on my main blog introducing my two new books to the world and I thought it would be interesting to write a “making of” on this blog which is, after all, about my adventures in reading, WRITING and working from home … And the title of this piece explains it all, really – can tweaking your book titles change your sales profile? I’m sharing my experience of naming my books and tweaking those names … and what might have happened next …

Funny book titles equals higher sales? Hm.

My first book was called “Going it Alone at 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment“. I realised there was a danger of people only reading the first part of the title and thinking it was a guide to empty nest syndrome or divorce, but it was my first book, so I could ‘leverage’ that and tell the world about my book. It was sufficiently differentiated from other books to do quite well, and I’ve had some lovely positive reviews (if the worst someone can say about your book is that it contains a few too many cardigans, then life isn’t too bad).

I wasn’t really planning on writing another self-help careers book … except I then put together a Quick Guide to Your Career in Transcription, because people kept searching for that topic on my blog, and that has indeed done pretty well, given that it’s a small book, not a full-length one. And then I kept on blogging about how I was building my business and developing my career and it became apparent that I could put together another book, about increasing your income, saying no and planning your time, plus what I’d learned about blogging and social media. I wrote some new chapters for the book which were later summarised in blog posts, and I published “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business After the Start-up Phase” in early 2014.

I did some market research on this title, this way round (and yes, if you’ve clicked the links, you’ll notice that the titles aren’t quite the same now) and people generally thought it was a good and funny title, as well as thinking the idea of the book was useful, given that there are lots of books out there about starting out and not so many about what happens next. I asked friends and colleagues on Facebook and in person at networking events, and excitedly launched the book. At the same time, I launched an omnibus e-edition of the two together so people could get better value, and called that “Going it Alone at 40 AND Who are you Calling Mature? The Omnibus“, which was probably a mistake. Who was going to find THAT searching for business books?

Launch your book and watch it fly!

Or not. I’ll be honest, sales were not what I’d hoped for. I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, including sending out review copies, and people have bought it and posted some good reviews. But not in the numbers I’d wished for.  Then I asked again, did anyone think there was anything wrong with the title? And I got lots of replies, some along the lines of the business area not being as large, but several saying that the title didn’t lead them to think about business, but about some kind of guide to growing old disgracefully. Oh. After some fulminating about there being subtitles and blue books with graphs on the cover not generally being the way to sell comedy books on ageing, I actually listened to the advice, realised that no one had a chance of finding the omnibus, and switched all the titles around.

Do your research and tread carefully

It’s been a week or so since I changed the titles around. I haven’t actually changed the book covers – yet. I considered it, but as my motto is “Do things carefully and don’t spend out unless you have to”, I thought I’d see if the change had an effect.

What did I do?

  • I changed the titles around on Amazon, and added a whole new title to the omnibus, so it’s now called “Your Guide to Starting and Building your Business“.
  • I remembered to change the titles on my business website’s publications page, and I took the opportunity to add to their SEO (search engine optimisation, AKA making sure that people can find your stuff) by adding sub-headings with the book titles.
  • I changed the titles on my book pages on this blog
  • I told people what I’d done and thanked them for their input
  • I wrote a blog post on my main blog introducing the books (with their new titles) to the world – it’s common practice to launch independent authors’ books once they’ve garnered a few sales and reviews) and made sure they were helped by the SEO of that site

What happened?

I sold more books. It’s anecdotal, obviously: there hasn’t been enough time to see whether this is a trend or a spike. I don’t think the sales were ‘support buys’, i.e. my friends feeling sorry for me and buying a copy to help out (I do massively appreciate that when it happens, and am chuffed at all sales, but that does sort of skew your sales statistics!), but so far I have had significantly more interest and sales.

What happens next for those book titles?

Well, for a start, I’m going to leave them that way around, as it obviously works.

I’m going to see how sales go through next month, and if they are good enough and I can see they’re going to pay their way, I will get the covers redesigned (including the covers for the print books)

And I’ll let you know!

Update – 20 days on and I’m redoing my book covers!

Update: 20 June. I’m pleased to report that as of 20 June I’ve sold copies of my books every day, and more copies of the renamed ones. Luckily, I get a nice report from Amazon about daily sales. I don’t think I’ve been talking about my books any more on social media than I usually do, so I’m putting it down to the new book titles.

Update – August 2014

Liz new books fbI ordered a new cover for the Omnibus e-book, and the two print books – and here they are. Doing that plus creating a dedicated books website has helped to build traffic and sales – but what started it all off was changing the titles! I’ve blogged a more detailed update here.

Reading Kindle books without a Kindle


Just a quick post as I’ve discovered that not everybody knows this …

If you want to read a book that’s only published in e-book form for Kindle (like my cholesterol book or my self-employment book – sorry, had to get some plugs in!), did you know that you don’t need to own a physical Kindle to read it?

You can download a free Kindle app that allows you to read Kindle books on other machines like phones, tablets and computers.

Where to find Kindle apps

Amazon offer free downloadable software so that you can read Kindle e-books without a Kindle – on a PC, Mac or various types of phone and tablet.

If you do have a Kindle, your phone, tablet or computer version of the software will automatically sync with it to record where you’ve got up to in a book. Magic!

They have a page about it here. This is not an ad for Amazon, more an attempt to reassure people that they can still read my books!

E-book news


cholesterol coverMy e-book is doing well and selling solidly and regularly – I’m so pleased that it’s helping people! I could do with a few more reviews, of course, so if you have bought or do buy it, please consider placing a review on the relevant Amazon website.

After some chat on Twitter a little while ago, I sent the cholesterol charity, HEART UK a review copy to see what they thought of the book. I am delighted to say that I’ve received the following lovely quote from their dietician, which I have their permission to add to my e-book and mention on this blog:

From HEART UK’s dietician, Linda Main: “Liz provides some practical common-sense ideas and advice which she has tried and tested to lower and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Her results demonstrate how a healthy balanced diet, low in saturated fat and high in wholegrain, fruits and vegetables and containing some cholesterol busting foods such as oats and nuts can be a central part of achieving this.”

Hopefully this will reassure my readers and potential buyers of the e-book that I know what I’m talking about and am giving sensible advice – please do click on the links and have a look at the great resources HEART UK have on offer for those suffering with high cholesterol.  Thank you to the charity for their kind words!

Note: you can buy my e-book all about reducing your cholesterol naturally by visiting these links: (note the review on there refers to the first edition: it is now fully updated for the US audience!)

A new book!


I’m proud to tell you that I published my first e-book today! It’s about how I got my own cholesterol levels down through diet and exercise, and has been through beta-testing and is now available on Amazon! Do pop over and “like” it if you can, and if you do happen to buy a copy, and find it useful, please consider posting a review. Thank you!

“LIKE”, review or buy the book here!