Festive Book Giveaway: After the Interview by A A Abbott

51KDy+IvdUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A free book?

Autographed by the author?

Yes please, we hear you cry!

AA Abbot writes office thrillers and this is your opportunity to win her latest, After The Interview.

"I find offices fascinating, with their secret projects, pecking order and water cooler gossip. That’s why I write about office life – with added thrills.”

To be in with a chance of winning the book, turn to Twitter and simply retweet the give away tweets until midnight 15th December. Then follow @BrumFaves in case you win.

Every retweet (up to one retweet a day) will be put in a draw and the winner announced on 16th December.


Bimingham Gift Guide: Books

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="3419,3969,2850,3357,3950,2853,3274,3693"]

Here's Brum Faves selection of books about Birmingham or written by local authors - or both!

  • 27 by Ryan Davis - Rock 'n' roll novel based in Birmingham in 1999.

  • Father of Locks by Andy Killeen - Unveils the historical truth behind the Arabian Nights tales

  • No Mean Affair by Robert Ronsson - Glasgow housewife’s journey from the poverty of the tenements to the centre of British political power in Westminster

  • Clovenhoof by Heide Goody & Iain Grant - Satan is fired from his job as Prince of Hell and exiled to that most terrible of places: English suburbia.

  • After the Interview by A A Abbott - We’ve all made mistakes at job interviews, but what happens when the tables are turned?

  • Spilt Milk Black Coffee by Helen Cross - Handsome Amir, somewhere in his twenties, somewhere in a Yorkshire town, is torn between duty and lust.

  • Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin by Barney Hoskyns

  • Million Dollar Dress by Heide Goody - Modern-day Cinderella story

  • In Other Hands by Iain Grant - People on the margins of society and the ties that bind us all together.

  • Beatrice by Fiona Joseph - The Cadbury Heiress Who Gave Away Her Fortune

Any more to add to the list? Let's have your recommendations in the comments or please tweet @BrumFaves

Book: Beatrice by Fiona Joseph

Coffee was considered a little too stimulating for female workers!

I’ve always had interest in the Cadbury family’s business methods anyway so was delighted to find out that local author Fiona Joseph was writing a book about them. More specifically, Beatrice Boeke, nee Cadbury, daughter of Richard was born in 1884.

On the strength of this book, I went to hear the author do a talk. I planned to buy a signed copy to read and hearing Fiona talk with so much love and admiration for Beatrice, I ‘fell a little bit in love’ too.

The story starts as Beatrice is born into what is already a wealthy family. Her father’s first wife died after giving birth to their fourth child and Beatrice is a result of his second marriage to his treasured Emma. They go onto have a long and happy marriage but are long gone before Beatrice rebels and this is when the story takes off.

We are introduced to Beatrice’s future husband, a trained architect, when she is already doing missionary work and she is on a panel interviewing him for a role in Syria. By the time he starts the role, they are already about to embark on a marriage.

Even before this, I enjoy every bit of the story and the book gives me a greater understanding on the Quaker beliefs held by the Cadburys. They are already known for ‘their mix of thrift and generosity’ and I love that sentiment. The most interesting aspect is that the simple life led by Quakers is at odds with the wealth the family accumulate. But, the wealth is very much redistributed in that they open their home to those less fortunate, offer them the opportunity to wash and have fresh clothes and most famously, they treat their employees with the utmost respect and care.

Bournville in Birmingham is still a dry village and no alcohol can be sold and there are other quirks in this little suburb of the city that totally adhere to the original Cadbury ethos. It’s a beautiful, well-kept place as I learn from my first visit their last year for a much-needed view of a Christmas lights switch on that was actually in December and not several weeks previous!

Back to Beatrice, most of the book now centre’s on how the conflict within her heart grows and what leads her wanting to give up her shares and inheritance. It is odd that she did not feel the same way as her father in that their wealth could be put to good use help others. I’m left wondering what they could have done with all that disposable income rather than giving it back to the factory workers, something her brothers, now the Cadbury directors, urged her against.

Beatrice’s and her husband’s legacy centre’s on what they did for education in Holland, where they both lived after Kees was deported. Both in England and Holland, they were routinely arrested for publicly speaking their minds about being anti-war primarily, something that is against Quaker beliefs anyway. But their belief in letting children learn through play, at their own pace rather forcing tests and learning (they called this sociocracy) is fascinating and something I have had a long-term interest in. We are guided through the time when Kees started home schooling their younger children (they had 7 in all), mainly as they could not afford the school fees. The popularity grew and eventually they set up a proper school, with some funds from the Cadbury Trust that Beatrice started with her dividends.

The couple lived through two world wars, struggling and at one point living in tents. I’m at odds at this when there brothers and sisters were living in luxury but still doing managing to do good for others. Either you work and earn a living and pay taxes – something they were against as they didn’t want their money paying for the wars – or you do good with the money.

But the family Boeke stood their ground and eventually, later in life managed to earn their keep through educating others.

This is a fascinating read.

By Rickie J, Founder and editor of Birmingham Favourites. @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites

Festive Book Giveaway: Spilt Milk Black Coffee by Helen Cross

A free book?


By a local Birmingham author?

Yes please, we hear you cry!

Moseley based, Helen Cross, an entertaining guest at one of our Meet the Author events this year, is currently working on a film adaptation of her latest novel ‘Spilt Milk Black Coffee’, a copy of which she has signed for the lucky winner.

Helen's  first novel ‘My Summer of Love’ won a Betty Trask Award and became a BAFTA award winning feature film, starring Emily Blunt and Natalie Press.

To be in with a chance of winning the book, turn to Twitter and simply retweet the giveaway tweets and follow @BrumFaves in case you win.

Every retweet (up to one retweet a day) will be put in a draw and the winner announced on 9th December.


Birmingham Books: Must Haves

Looking for ideas on original book presents? Here are some Birmingham infused book recommendations put together by city tour guide, Ian Braisby in 2013. Birmingham Books and Writers

Mainly regarded as a city of commerce and industry rather than culture, there is actually a very good reason why Birmingham’s coat of arms offsets the man with hammer, anvil and crucible with a lady carrying a pallet and a book.  Over the years, it has been the birthplace, home and inspiration to many well-known and hugely successful poets, playwrights and novelists.

Festive Book Giveaway: 27 by Ryan Davis

A free book?

By a local Birmingham author?

A novel based in Birmingham?

Yes please, we hear you cry!

Ryan Davis, a wonderful guest at one of our Meet the Author events this year, has kindly given us a signed copy of his book 27.

[box type="note"] It's 1999, the end of the millennium and Jim Vale, aka Jimmy Tyrant, singer of one hit wonders The Tyrants has lost everything he once loved. Like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and many rockers before him, Jim tries to end it all by committing suicide at the age of twenty seven.

Trouble is, he survives. [/box]

To be in with a chance of winning the book, turn to Twitter and simply retreat the giveaway tweets and follow @BrumFaves.

Every retweet (up to one retweet a day) will be put in a draw and the winner announced on 2nd December.

See our review of 27 here.

Book: The Father of Locks by Andrew Killeen

I do have a love of historical novels that make me pay attention to history as an adult like I never did at school. This however, from Birmingham based author Andrew Killeen, is a whole other level of history.

We are following the adventures of Ismail, a young thief and (aspiring) poet who is desperate to get to Baghdad and be part of the world’s capital city’s vibrant culture.

As we read of his adventures, we learn of his history and how he came to be so young and travelling to the biggest of city alone. He soon falls into the hands of the most famous poet, womanising bi-sexual Abu Nuwas. ‘The Father of Locks’ takes him under his wing although this doesn’t stop either of them cheating death many times as they weave in an out of Baghdad’s back alleys and uncover ancient cults, multiple religions and beautiful people of both sexes.

Then there is the mystery of the missing children which unlocks more questions than answers.

I found it a tough to keep up with the colourful cast as we’ve weaved back and forward in history buy enjoyable nonetheless. If this era appeals to you, you will love it.

By Rickie J. Reader of books & founder of Brum Faves.

Contact @RickieWrites or @BrumFaves


Book: After the Interview by AA Abbott

The book is based in our two major cities, Birmingham and London and is full of thoroughly familiar landmarks in both. I now can’t walk past St Pancras without looking around for the flat featured!

As the author commented at the recent Meet the Author event, in this book, all the bad things tend to happen in London and the good in Birmingham. The main characters run companies. One started his and the other is an employee that’s risen up the ranks.

Whereas AA Abbott is fascinated by offices and what goes on in them, the book just served to re-remind me why I don’t like working in them. Even non-corporate ones. Every office that looks like, well, looks like an office!

The book title is only explained a little later on as we hear about all the characters eventually bumping into one another or indeed, we discover where they have met before. That must be the most fun part of writing fiction – creating the characters and seeing how they are going to collide.

Despite disliking all of the characters, even those that came good in the end had some major character flaws, it’s an enjoyable, quick read.

By Rickie, reader and founder of Birmingham Favourites

Contact @RickieWrites or @BrumFaves or directly @AAAbbottStories

Book: Clovenhoof by Heide Goody & Iain Grant


After 27, I've gone and read another book based in Birmingham, or more specifically Sutton Coldfield. As the title suggests, demons of an entirely different kind feature in this book .

Satan has been ousted from the role that he has had almost his entire life – the job he was born to do. Hell has been running too slowly and the lines to get in are simply too long so something has to change. Having been made redundant, he has been transported to earth – to suburban Sutton Coldfield – with the Archangel Michael making sure he doesn’t return to his evil ways but blends in with local society.

But of course he doesn’t!

Former #MeetTheAuthor guests, Heidi Goody and Iain Grant jointly tell us all the ways he just doesn’t settle on Earth without bringing his bad ways with him.

Now named Jeremy Clovenhoof, we learn about Satan forming a heavy metal band – not realising you are meant to sell tickets – not buy them all yourself and give them away free.

We witness Clovenhoof realising money doesn’t grow on trees when his generous allowance runs out after putting on a ’sold out’ gig at Birmingham Symphony Hall (see above).

We then find out all the ways in which he obtains money – rather than having to work for it.

‘He had decided that if he ever returned to his old  job he would create a special level of hell…and then Nerys had taken him to IKEA and Clovenhoof realised that humans had once gain beaten him to it’.

And we hear how he makes friends/enemies/friends again with the other flat dwellers in his building.

There is a fantastic cast including dead vicars, Joan of Arc and when the angel Michael says he has friends in high places, we know what he means.

The story travels from what’s going on in hell, heaven (they have a monorail that takes you 500 miles in 30 minutes) and Birmingham and the latter is definitely the most interesting. I’m making the most of my time while I’m here on earth!

A highly recommended read and now that I have caught up with this 2012 release, I’m moving onto others written by these amusing local writers.


Smile factor 9½/10

Find out about MeetTheAuthor events here.

Book: No Mean Affair by Robert Ronsson

No_Mean_Affair_Cover_low-198x300Having just read a book based in my one of my favourite cities, Birmingham, move on to this, based in another, Glasgow. This one however, is delightfully, a history lesson too, of the best kind. It opens in Glasgow in 1912 in a tenement – that is – a one room dwelling. The poverty of Glasgow has been well-documented and when I visit now and look at the gorgeous architecture in the West End, it’s astonishing to think those lovely buildings once held multiple families. Large families too and the one featured in No Mean Affair is that of Mary Ireland, the grandmother of the author.

Her husband didn’t think much of it, but Mary had bigger plans than to raise their three bairns in one room in a smoky, smelly Glasgow. Mary didn’t think it was right that women couldn’t vote either, but her main concern was the living conditions of the poor. They moved to Glasgow to live in the same building as his brother who gave him a job as a milkman – a job she took on when he went to war.

It was while standing up for the rights of the poor that Mary came across John Wheatley, a prominent, wealthy businessman who had raised himself up from his boot straps.  A miner’s son, Wheatley built his business interests through suspect methods, including using thugs to chase money, which is how he came across Danny, the third main character.

He hired Danny, as his right hand man who lived in the big house along with his wife and family and then progressed to do more for the poor in the city. During a #MeetTheAuthor event, Robert Ronsson tells us there is a biography of JW (as Danny, who holds more than a torch to Mary, refers to him) which helped with the research.

Being a key player in the new Independent Labour Party, JW moves to improve conditions including reducing the working week down from 54 hours and letting women join political parties. I learn at this stage they can’t vote and even later in the 1930s can only vote if they are a home owner. How many women owned homes then?! This only really started happening to a greater degree in the 1980s.

So why No Mean Affair? The story is centred on the 20 year deep-rooted affair that eventually developed between Mary and JW. Despite the generation gap between them, they had the same believes and sacrificed much to develop housing reform in the 1920s. While JW rose to be an MP, Mary was still in the one room with her husband and now four children. Neither will get a divorce in Catholic Glasgow and Mr Ireland turned a blind-eye to the affair to a point, as it kept him in money to stay drunk. Mrs Wheatley was less patient but the managed to stay married while the affair evolved to a solid working relationship as well as a deep affection.

Of course this book is fiction based on historical events and real people and that’s the best way I know to learn about history.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning how JW seemed to have his heart in the right place while political ambition roared inside him and we learn exactly why a poor women from Glasgow left three of her children behind to come and live in London.

Take me back to 1930, I need to know more!


Smile factor 9/10

By Rickie J, founder & editor of Birmingham Favourites. Contact via twitter on @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites

Book: 27 by Ryan Davis

“One of the greatest rock and roll novels ever written, an exciting new voice!" – Ian Marchant. Oh my.

I've read a few stories about Birmingham but this is the first based in the modern era. The story of Jim Vale, AKA Jimmy of the Tyrants is told at the turn of this century. As it twists from gangland drugs to murders to stereotypical dodgy band managers and millennium parties, I find myself looking out of my Jewellery Quarter window to confirm to myself it’s not real.

27 being the infamous age when so many promising rocksters commit suicide, we wonder if this will happen to Jimmy, after the runaway success of one of their singles. He doesn’t like the way the band are going and his so called best friend/bassist seems desperate to take his frontman/singer slot.

He wants out.

But he doesn’t succeed.

So it is then decided by the Tyrants manager that he should lay low, pretend he really has shuffled this mortal coil and let the band re-invent themselves without him, milking the story for every £ they can so he can repay his debts.

He has nowhere to turn, firstly because he is meant to be dead but also because his mother is currently minus all her marbles, his former girlfriend wants nothing to do with him and he has no money to make music.

Instead he turns to an old friend whose ambition is to be the biggest drug dealer in the city. To earn himself the money he desperately needs to make his own album, he becomes his friend’s runner and finds himself embroiled in deeper trouble caught up between the city’s gangs.

Read the book to discover if and how Jim/Jimmy makes it through. But if you live in Birmingham, the city will look a lot different afterwards as you spot the various landmarks heavily featured from 1999.

 Ryan will be talking about this book and his writing at the Birmingham Favourites #MeetTheAuthor event on August 11th2014. Click here for details & to book your free seat.

Find Ryan Davis on Twitter @RoyMonde or take a look at his website.

By Rickie J, editor & founder.