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Some couples have wedding breakfast tables named after places they've been together, or bands they both enjoy. But when your w...

Our Bookish Wedding: Books as Table Names!


Some couples have wedding breakfast tables named after places they've been together, or bands they both enjoy. But when your wedding is book-themed, you might want tables named after books you love.

That's what we did. And for a long time, we were struggling to think of an inventive way to display them. Because you need to at least try to be original, right?

Then it hit us: Why not make our own covers for those books, and have real books on each table?


It so happened that the books we chose all had at least one quote about love or marriage in them, and they were often funny or silly. So we thought it would be entertaining to add those quotes on the back cover, as an Easter egg for our friends and family.

Fancy making some of your own, or just interested in how we did it? Well, read on, my friends. And once you get to the end of the post, I'll show you the lot, for your entertainment.

How we did it

First, obviously, we chose the book titles we wanted to use. Our requirements were that they be books that at least one of us likes, and that their names could roughly be used to describe a group of people. For example: Little Women.

We had 9 tables, so we needed 9 table names. It would obviously be best if we used books that were the same size, and they needed to be thin enough to slot into a table name stand if possible. So the next step was to acquire some thin, compact hardback books which we could bind with our created covers.

I bought 9 Puddle Lane books on eBay. Remember Puddle Lane? I do. We had these when I was a kid.


So now we had some books that looked like they were the perfect dimensions for table name displays. To make a sleeve for them though, I needed to know the exact dimensions. So the next step was to measure the height and width of the book. The sleeve would need to be the exact height of the book, but the width would need to be (width x 2) + spine + a bit extra to be folded inside the covers


So, with my sizes noted down, I started a new document in GIMP (other image editing tools are available), sized just a little bit larger than the dimensions I had just decided upon, so that when I cut it down I knew there would be no white space around the edges that I hadn't accounted for (a word on sizing images and dpi: dpi stands for "dots per inch", and you should find out the max dpi of your printer before you start designing your sleeves. If you design and print an image at 300dpi, that means that every 300 pixels of your image should fill an inch on the page. If you didn't know that already, I hope it helps you size up images and get the best out of your printer in future).

With the document created at the size I wanted, I completed what was arguably the most important step: designing our covers.


As you can see in the above screenshot, I used guides to tell me where the borders of the covers were, where the spine was, and the centre of each cover horizontally and vertically. I really wanted it to look perfect, even though I knew that I was going to be cutting the sleeves and folding them onto the books, so they never would end up perfect anyway.

The next steps are obvious: first, printing. I had to buy an A3 printer to print mine. I took it to a stationers that does printing first, but the girl behind the counter didn't know what dpi was or how to change it on the printer settings and she gave me a lot of attitude when I asked her about it, so I thought it would be best to do it myself at home.


As I mentioned before, this image was an inch or two bigger on paper than it needed to be, in both directions. This was so that when I did the next step, cutting it down to the sizes I measured, I would be sure the colour would be edge-to-edge. In this case, the colour was only grey, but I'm sure you see what I mean.


And then, we were pretty much done. After that, we only had to fold the sleeves around the books, just like them books what you buy at the shops, and they were complete! Look at them:











So there you have it. I hope you liked it, and if you're planning your own bookish wedding I hope it inspires you. Feel free to steal the idea, just don't try to sell it to other people. That's just rude.

While you're here, check out our other bookish wedding ideas, and if you really like them, why not consider buying a book or two? No pressure. I'm just happy you're here.

Have a nice day guys!

Hello loyal fans*!  As you'll know if you've been following my Instagram updates (or lack thereof) and blog posts ( the few ...

Coming Soon: Removed Without Warning


Hello loyal fans*! 

As you'll know if you've been following my Instagram updates (or lack thereof) and blog posts (the few there have been), this year has been a very busy one for me. I've smashed through some major life milestones and come out the other side with a smile on my face and a ring on my finger.

And it has passed so quickly, hasn't it? I know everyone says it, but the older I get, the quicker time seems to pass. I've only just got used to writing 2018 in the date, and now we're two months away from a new year! Can't believe it.

But I'm not done with this year yet. I've been working on a new book, and I wanted to get it to you before the end of the year. So, without further ado, I'd like to announce Removed Without Warning, my new collection of short stories, out on December 1st.

Check out the blurb and possible cover below. I say "possible" because there are a few I'm torn between at the moment; but I'll decide on one in the end, and you'll see it when you buy your copy anyway, won't you?

Wild animals in your driveway. Bricks through your windows. Emotions in bottles, and demons in your toys. 

All of this and more awaits, in this collection of twelve new stories from the author of Gods and Conquerors and Everything Around Me is Destroyed or Damaged.

Gritty, dark and oddly funny, Removed Without Warning is another handful of warped tales from lives you never knew you wanted to hear about.


Like the sound of that? You can preorder it on Kindle, or wait until December 1st to get yourself a paperback version from all good Amazons. It's not like you'll forget - I'll be going on and on about it till it's out. And if you're a #bookstagram reviewer, feel free to contact me if you're interested in an advance copy for review purposes. If I'm not feeling too scared that day, I might be able to hook you up!

There. That should keep you occupied for a while, until I finish that second novel I haven't even started yet...



*or, as I like to call you, mum and dad...

I thought I'd share some of the smaller ideas we had to make our day a bit bookish, since not all of them deserve their own post, bu...

Our Bookish Wedding: Some Small Bits...


I thought I'd share some of the smaller ideas we had to make our day a bit bookish, since not all of them deserve their own post, but they're all easily doable and might help you with your own big day.

Books as Centrepieces

Look in the dustiest corner of any charity shop, second-hand bookstore or even antique shop, and you'll probably find some lovely bound books. We bought a shitload of these (more than 65, some for as little as 10p each), and stacked them up in piles of 5 or 6 to make lovely centrepieces for our tables.


Plonk a pretty bunch of flowers on top, and badda-bing, badda-boom, it's all Instagram worthy. I didn't get any photos of that, so I'll have to wait till I get the real photos and update this post. Watch this space.


Books as Favours


How many guests are you inviting? Could you afford to give them a book each? Maybe. Penguin's Little Black Classics are only £52 at time of writing. That's 80 favours in one big box for 65p each! If you have even more than that, you could add all the books from the Modern Box Set in for 71p each.


Slap a cheeky ribbon around them, maybe whack a name tag on, and pow! A sweet little favour for everyone at your breakfast. Why is it called a wedding breakfast anyway? Who drinks wine at breakfast? This is madness.


I'm no photographer - I didn't even centre the book before I took it, look - but you get the picture.

So there you go, a couple of small ideas for your wedding planning pleasure. Feel free to steal them, and if you're interested in seeing more, check out my other wedding idea posts here. If you love them all, you could make me feel special by buying one of my books and enjoying that too! You know you want to.

The love of my life and I are getting married soon, so I thought I'd share some of the ways we've let our love of books light up...

Our Bookish Wedding: Books as Invitations!


The love of my life and I are getting married soon, so I thought I'd share some of the ways we've let our love of books light up our big day. I'll be making a few posts over the next couple of months, pretty much one for every good idea we have. Why keep them to ourselves, when fabulous Internet strangers could benefit from them too?

Our first idea: writing a book, to use as invitations.

I got the idea when I saw how cheap it was to print each copy of my novel, Gods and Conquerors, on demand. Comparing that to the price of some wedding invitations (wedding suppliers seem to just pick a number out of thin air), there was really no contest. Writing our own book to celebrate our very bookish day seemed like the best choice.

You can read our book at the end of this post, or simply read on to find out how to make one yourself.

How to do it



First, you need to find yourself a print-on-demand self publishing service. I used createspace.com, but other services are available and no one is paying me to advertise for them, so I encourage you to shop around. It should also be noted that createspace is closing down and its services moving over to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), so that won't be an option soon, if it even is at the moment.

It's very easy to set up an account and create a new title, so I won't patronise you with a guide for that.

Next, you need to create the content: write a story to go in the book, and design the cover. Anyone who knows how to use Word (or similar) can easily create the interior, as KDP and createspace both provide good templates. For the cover, you might want to involve someone who knows a bit about graphic design. We didn't, because we were happy with our amateur cover; but if you want it to look really snazzy, perhaps you need to call in a favour or two.

When it comes to content, you probably need at least 14 pages of story before you reach the wedding details. I think all print-on-demand services have a minimum page count, so you couldn't just make it a simple invitation with no other content even if you wanted to. Why you would want to is a mystery to me - the whole point of this is to create an original and amusing book for your guests to read - but just in case, I thought I'd mention it.

We wrote ours in rhyme, the story of our relationship from beginning to now.


Once formatted (and re-drafted, and formatted again and again), you can upload your interior as a simple Word file, and your cover as .pdf. Then, you can order your proofs and approve your book.

"But, once it's approved, it's basically a self-published book - doesn't that mean anyone will be able to buy it?!" I hear you ask. And it's a valid concern; it was my biggest worry, too. But no, you don't have to publish to any online stores if you don't want to. On createspace, you could set it so that the only way to buy your book was through createspace.com (whether other services provide that facility, I couldn't say). We bought all our own copies, and then we trashed it after that.

So, as you can see, it's really simple. Don't let anyone charge you for it; if you're struggling and need some assistance, just reach out and I'll help if I can.

And here's our book:


 
 









The pages I haven't included here contain all the vital details that would bore the average reader of this blog: accomodation, gifts, and RSVP requirements. There was nothing especially creative about those pages, so I'm sure you'll manage without them.

If you like this idea, feel free to copy it, and check out the rest of our bookish wedding ideas here. If you like them all, why not show me some love by buying one of my books

Sorry I haven't been around for a while. I've been on and off of Instagram too, doing various life admin things like organising ...

Book Reviews - August '18


Sorry I haven't been around for a while. I've been on and off of Instagram too, doing various life admin things like organising our wedding and stuff. Also writing a new book, but more on that another time. For now, here's a picture of a cow and a roundup of short Instagram reviews I've written recently.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - John le Carré

"The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal."

There is a Russian mole in the British intelligence service, and George Smiley is asked to come out of retirement to find him. He must wade through the secrets and lies of all the people he used to work with, uncovering things about his past and the lives of his colleagues that he had never known before.

Somewhere between the excellent writing style and the subtle and complex story of espionage and intrigue, this book hooked me. I absolutely loved it. The relationships between the characters; our thoughtful, quiet protagonist; the interlacing of past and present... It was all just brilliant.

Something I really loved is the quaintness of it all. No mobile phones, no Internet, no complicated forensics or global spy networks; just people, and paper, and telephone calls, and manilla folders in hotel rooms. It made the story more human, which is hard to do now that technology has taken over.

Not that that was a conscious decision - it was written in the 70s and set in the 70s, so they were quainter times.

Anyway, the mystery was also good. And the film is good too. Can't recommend this story highly enough.


5/5.


Joyland - Stephen King

"When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction."

Devin Jones is a twenty-something working at a theme park over the summer. There was a murder at the park a few years ago that remains unsolved, but really, most of the book is just about his love life.

I wanted to like this book. Apart from the fact that the cover is great, it was also bought for me by the love of my life, and I like it when I like the books she gives me. But King just wouldn't let me like it.

It's marketed as a crime novel. It is published by an imprint called Hard Case Crime. But it's no crime novel at all, and certainly not hard. The mystery is alluded to a couple of times, then you have to wade through a very tedious 200 pages (yes, 200!!) before he decides to start investigating it, then he forgets all about it, and it is instantly solved for him around page 250. I'm not even exaggerating, the crime is that irrelevant.

So if it's not a crime novel, then what is it? Boring, mostly. It's just a novel about working a summer job, making friends, living a normal life. Yawn. Honestly, what you learn in the first 200 pages could have been told in 30. And it's so wholesome and PG, even a few F-bombs and a couple of C-bombs can't make it any edgier.

It was also intensely irritating that every woman in the story seemed to fall in love with the protagonist. He's the most boring nice guy in the world, but every woman he walks past wants to strip off for him as soon as she meets him. Awful.

Should have been a short story, at the most.

1.5/5.


And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

"In the midst of life, we are in death."

10 people are invited onto an island owned by one very mysterious U N Owen, for a variety of reasons. But when they start dying and learn that they are being killed for past crimes, they just wish they could get off it again.

This is my second Agatha Christie book. And this one, just like Murder on the Orient Express, felt like it was written for kids. Or by someone who hasn't read much, or didn't have an editor. But this is Agatha Christie, so that can't be true. It's just her style, but I'm not a fan.

For example, sometimes there will be a paragraph with a few revelations in it! And every sentence will end with an exclamation mark! As if that will increase the impact! But it doesn't! And there are other annoying things too... Like overuse of the ellipsis...

Anyway, that aside, this is a very entertaining story. It's fun to try and work out who's next and who's doing this, and she did well to hide it till the end - it wasn't the bloke I guessed it would be.

Recommended for fun and murder. And yes, I am going to pretend that this book didn't have a very different original title.

3.5/5.


I Love Dick - Chris Kraus

A woman stalks and harasses a man she barely knows, because she has convinced herself that she is in love with him. She writes him countless letters, and even sends an inappropriate fax to his work.

Sounds like the kind of creepy story I'd love. And I might have, if it wasn't true. This Dick is a real person, and the protagonist is Chris Kraus, the book's author. How minging is that?

But since it's apparently a novel, I don't know how much of it is fact and how much fiction. So let's pretend it's all fiction.

The protagonist of this book comes across as an obnoxiously pretentious intellectual who thinks that raiding the thesaurus and constructing all the most convoluted, overripe sentences she possibly can, each with as many obscure references as possible, will make her seem as intelligent as she keeps saying she is.

There doesn't seem to have been an editor. Whole paragraphs are begging to be cut, and the grammar is often questionable. Also, it's littered with this's. THIS'S. How is that better than "this is"?

Anyway. The book slaps itself on the back for saving feminism. But for the first half, you wonder what's feminist about it. Are you showing that women can be insane stalkers just as well as men? Well, I don't doubt that.

To be fair, in the latter half there are some good points about the injustice of how women are perceived compared to men. But they're hidden in such a flood of tangential, irrelevant crap that you wish a good book had made those points instead, so that they would be presented in a way that would be interesting instead of... this.

There is an afterword at the end of this edition, which says that the critics are wrong about this book, and then tries to explain why. What this told me was that they knew it was bad, and they felt the need to try to persuade us it isn't.

1/5.


The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow

"Some people, if they didn't make it hard for themselves, might fall asleep."

Augie March is a likeable, normal American living in the 30s, growing up around people of all social standings and attitudes, trying to work out who he really is. And that's it really - this book is 500 pages of someone living a life.

In a way, it's like Stoner, which I loved. Nothing much happens - there is some action every now and then, but mostly it's just someone plodding along through life, doing stuff normal people in the real world might do. The problem is, where Stoner really got me, this one didn't.

I don't know why. It was well written, often amusing, and the "normal" things he did were actually often quite ridiculous so should have been more entertaining, but I just went through it feeling... Meh.

So it ended up being a struggle. But I must emphasise that it was well written and in places was quite fun. Just didn't do it for me, overall.

3/5.


Spares - Michael Marshall Smith

"You have to accept gifts occasionally, because there are some things you can’t give yourself."

Spares tells the story of Jack Randall, drug addict and ex-cop living in a city which is a former flying shopping mall, trying to solve the mystery of who has kidnapped the clones be rescued from a life of slavery.

Except, it's not really. He forgets about the clones ("spares") pretty quickly, and really, for most of the book, I think he's just trying to work out who's shooting at him.

In my opinion, a good whodunnit should make the reader care about the result. They should want to know who did the crime, they should crave justice. But this book didn't achieve that for me - it changed its mind too much. One minute it was about the spares, then Randall's dead family, then a random bunch of murders in the city... Yes, it all comes together in the end, but on the way there were too many twists for me to care.

I also wasn't blown away by the writing. I saw a lot of my own style in there, from when I was just trying my hand at writing. And when I write like that, I hate myself. Clumsy sentences; paragraphs that are supposed to be funny and whimsical but end up missing the mark and being a bit embarrassing; poorly formed relationships between characters; bad dialogue...

BUT having said all that, when it worked, it worked. MMS came up with some great metaphors and some passages were very amusing. It was a mixed bag of ideas and half of them should have been cut, but the other half were good. It was also never slow or boring. It just wasn't a great whodunnit, I thought.

3/5.

One year ago today, my debut novel was released on Kindle and paperback (and the next day, I used it to propose to my girlfriend ). And...

Gods and Conquerors is 1 Year Old!


One year ago today, my debut novel was released on Kindle and paperback (and the next day, I used it to propose to my girlfriend). And since then, even though I haven't tried anywhere near as hard as I should have to market it, hundreds of people have read it, and a few have even liked it!

My nan didn't. She told me she had to give up near the beginning. "I don't know," she said, preparing to drop the mic and walk away, "how you come up with such weird ideas!"

But luckily, she hasn't left a Amazon review. 14 people have, and they've all been very kind. Even kinder, @amybucklesbookshelf said it was "truly astounding", and @cherrijaynebooks wrote "mind blowing" in her review. I'll never stop using reviews like that, no matter how sick they get of me quoting them.

So, here we are, a year later, and there's nothing that would make me happier right now than for hundreds MORE people to read it. Especially if one of them had the power to green-light its production as a Hollywood film, bringing me fame and fortune beyond my wildest dreams... but let's not get ahead of ourselves. How do I propose to get YOU to read it today?

For the next 5 days, you can get up to 75% off Gods and Conquerors on Kindle on the Amazon.co.uk and .com stores! The sooner you buy it, the more you save. 

Head over to the Books page today to grab your copy. You can even read the first chapter before you commit, if you're still not sure if you want a copy. Either way, I hope you have a nice day, because I will. It's filled with lovely memories and it's also a Saturday.

This cat doesn't belong to me. It just wanders into our kitchen sometimes, as if it owns the place. I haven't stolen it though; ...

Book Reviews - April '18


This cat doesn't belong to me. It just wanders into our kitchen sometimes, as if it owns the place. I haven't stolen it though; after I give it a little stroke, I put it out in the garden and tell it to go home and cuddle its owner.

Speaking of crimes though, it's whodunnit month on destroyedordamaged.com! Here are the books I've read this month, and what I thought about them. Hit their names to buy them on Amazon.



Aaron Falk returns to the rural town in which he grew up to attend the funeral of his former friend, who apparently committed murder-suicide over money troubles. While he's there, he realises that might not have been the case, and begins an unofficial investigation into what really happened.

The writing is solid. It's not great, but it's good enough. There are some gripping bits too, where you finish a chapter and want to start the next immediately. So that's a good thing, especially in a thriller.

Twist endings are pretty much expected in crime thrillers, but I think it's important that when they come, you feel like it has been building up, even if you didn't realise it. Ideally, the reader would be very surprised, but still wonder how they didn't see it coming. But in this book, I felt cheated by the ending. It felt thrown together at the last minute, for the sake of a twist. I'd also guessed who it was halfway through.

Also, there are some glaring holes that ruined it a bit for me. Like, the first piece of evidence we see is that the shotgun shells used in the shooting were different to the shells owned by the apparent perpetrator, and the police in their official investigation just thought, "yep, no issue there." Huh?

They also use shotguns to cull rabbits, which doesn't seem very efficient to me, but I don't know much about guns or rabbit culling so I'll let that one go.

Also, at one point, Falk finds an ID which was stashed away years before. The passage says, "There was a plastic wallet with an ID of a girl[.] It said her name was [...] and she was nineteen." So, did the ID specifically say she was 19? Because that ID is going to become useless really quickly, since our ages change once a year. Or did it say her date of birth, as most IDs do? In which case, how could she be 19 now when the ID was hidden away 20 years ago? Or does Falk inexplicably know the date on which it was hidden, so he knows that on that day she definitely would have been 19?

I'm making a bigger deal of that than it was. But at time of writing this, I only recently read that bit and I just thought it was ridiculous. An editor should have caught that.

2.5/5.



"Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead."

PI Philip Marlowe is hired by the Sternwood family to find the person behind a blackmail attempt. He makes fast progress, and ends up discovering a web of lies, money, smut and crime that links nearly everyone he meets.

I enjoyed this book. It was fun, quick-witted, exciting and well written. It's a whodunnit, in a way, but you really don't have time to be trying to work out who did what, because every chapter has a new turn that throws you off course.

Apparently, the novel was "cannibalised" from a number of Chandler's short stories. I didn't feel like there were any major threads left untied by that fact, but it did feel, sometimes, like the twists and turns were being made up as he went along; so that might have been why.

The one thing some more delicate readers might not like is the attitude of the protagonist (e.g. towards women), which is VERY outdated by today's standards. But the fact is, it was written in a different time, when people saw the world differently. We're better off now, but that doesn't mean we should throw out all the art people made during less enlightened times. If you think we should judge people from different times by today's standards, then I think you're an idiot. Soz.

Highly recommended for a quick and amusing read.

4/5.



"Some men get the world, some men get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona."

The Christmas party at one LAPD station descends into violence against prisoners, and the courses of three officers' careers are changed forever, as they are forced to overcome the resentment and regret left behind by that fateful night to solve LA's "crime of the century".

There are whole paragraphs of this book that you won't understand unless you're fluent in 1950s police slang. It's almost as if the author doesn't want you to understand, he's spread it on that thickly.

And even if there wasn't slang everywhere, the writing style is also confusing in parts. Every now and then, there are convoluted passages that are probably intended to be stylish, but just left me thinking they could do with a cleanup.

But still, when the style works, it's very good. The book isn't a drag by any measure, even though it's quite long by my standards. There's so much story in there that you feel like you're moving forward, every chapter.

The ending was a bit of a mess though, I thought. There were some silly bits that weren't very believable and too many threads tied up in too much of a rush.

But having said all that, I still have to say it's good. Recommended, if you don't have anything better to read.

3.5/5.


Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

"If you confront anyone who has lied with the truth, he will usually admit it - often out of sheer surprise. It is only necessary to guess right to produce your effect."

The Orient Express is stuck in a snowdrift. There is a body with 12 stab wounds on board, and Hercule Poirot is assigned the task of finding the killer.

I've never read any Agatha Christie books. But everyone has heard of her - you can't hear her name without thinking of murder mysteries. So, obviously, I went into this expecting excellence.

I wasn't impressed by the writing style, to be honest. It felt like it had been written for kids. No subtlety, not enough showing and too much telling, strange adverbs everywhere... Nah. Not for me.

The story was quite complex though. And you want that from a murder mystery. It has to be complicated and the evidence all has to point you in the wrong directions all the time; that's what keeps it interesting. That was good.

But the ending! What a... load of crap. Sorry, Agatha fans, but I wasn't pleased with that at all. My eyes rolled so hard I thought they were going to roll down my throat and fall out of my bum. The revelation of the culprit is disappointing, and the events at the end of the story were just silly. That's what I thought, anyway. And I'm probably wrong - this has been adapted into about 3 films now, hasn't it?


3/5.