Monday, 30 July 2012

A Londoner's Guide to Surviving the London Underground

It's been seven years in the making but the Olympics are now well underway and thousands upon thousands of foreigners have flocked to the British capital to see the games first-hand. While many Londoners (me included) dreaded this day, thinking only of the horrendous commute that awaited those of us not on holiday and still having to make our  way into work, these people are here to enjoy the greatest show on earth in a foreign country that many will never have visited.

So, welcome to you all. Here are some tips for surviving the hustle and bustle of the London Underground and here's to you and what I hope will be a fun stay.

PS - These tips also apply to the many Brits who are guilty of not abiding by the rules of the Underground.

Do not carry suitcases bigger in width than people

If your suitcase takes up as much room as a person, prepare to be given the evil-eye. Space is a rare commodity on the commute in and regular commuters on the London Underground will accept defeat and wait for the next tube if they cannot see a centimetre of space to squeeze into. If, however, they spot someone with a suitcase big enough to fit an adult human inside, they will get angry like the Hulk and force their way onto the tube, if only to prove the point that people come before suitcases during rush hour. The same rule applies to women with large bags. Put them between your feet, not in the face of the person stood next to you. This rule also applies to smaller handbags, ladies. Your bag didn't touch in at the Oyster card reader gates - so it didn't pay for a seat. Put it on your lap and let somebody sit down!


Do not reach the top or bottom of an escalator and then stop

The Underground can be confusing, we know. There are different maps, colours, routes, directions. If you don't do it on a regular basis, it's understandable that you might not immediately know where to stand on the platform to make sure you get off at your exit station exactly by the exit staircase. Similarly, we get that you may not know where to go when you need to change lines. Whatever you do, DO NOT stop at the top or bottom of the escalator to consider your next move. Get out of the way first before you stop to get a map out or ask for help. If you block the exit to a moving staircase, people will trip over you or fall onto you. You will, however, probably learn a lot of new English words they don't teach you at school. You have been warned.

This rule also applies to the Oyster/ticket gate. You are allowed one extra swipe of your card if it beeps "seek assistance". After that, you have about two seconds to get out of the way before the anger ...


Keep your elbows and feet in for the ride at all times

When you're in a car, or walking through a gorgeous field with nobody in sight, it is totally acceptable to stretch, swivel and generally throw your arms and legs about like you don't have a care in the world. In a crammed tube though - this is unacceptable. If you need to retrieve your phone from your pocket, grab make-up out of your bag or just switch a heavy bag (which should already be on the floor!) from one arm to another, be aware of your elbows. When they hit others in the head - and I cannot believe I need to spell this out - IT HURTS! Funnily enough, turning and mumbling a half-arsed sorry doesn't make the pain go away. People are close to you not because they are coming on to you but because they need to get to work. So have the common courtesy to not elbow them in the head while they do. Same rule applies for feet - watch where you're treading - but just make sure that while you look at people's feet, your elbows stay at your sides.


Reading is a luxury

Lots of people love a good book to make the commute go by faster. If you're immersed in a great book, you'll not be looking at every stop, thinking 'Am I there yet?'. But during rush hour, the luxury of reading may not be possible - unless you can read a book a centimetre in front of your face. If someone gets on a packed tube and knocks the book you're holding out a foot in front of you, they are not rude - you are. Put the book away and suck it up like everyone else.


Brits are a quiet people - unless you anger them

Many people mock the British for our quiet sensibilities. We aren't a loud nation as a rule, preferring to suffer in silence (and gossip in secret), say sorry when we are not at fault and use sarcasm, dirty looks and Jedi mind tricks when people anger us. These rules do not always apply on the tube. If you are refusing to move down an empty carriage and blocking others, they will tell you. Your first warning will be when somebody says "Can you move down please." If you do not comply, be prepared for screaming, swearing and shoving until you do.


Lines can and will change unexpectedly

In many countries, the Underground lines start at one end and finish at another. Simple. Sadly this is not the way the London Underground works, whether it's the northern line that branches off at the top and has two branches to choose from or the circle line that just goes round and round but still terminates at a station. They were confusing in Harry Potter and can be here in London too. Make sure you know which one to get and if you aren't sure, there are information buttons on the platform for you to ask - do NOT get on and then hop off until the doors close and you cry with panic. 


Hand holding is for children only

Children on the tube can be hilarious and entertaining. They can also be a commuter's worst nightmare - especially during rush hour and especially when they come with a scream that could shatter glass, an enormous buggy and an exhausted mother. If you have lots of excited little ones, hold on to them for dear life because one quick run off in one direction and you could lose them in the crowds - or worse - they could get hurt.

Hand holding, however, is NOT for fully grown adults. For those of us who weave in and out of lines and round slow-moving walkers out for a casual stroll underground, it is always nice when you can overtake (or undertake). However, when couples can't help but see the romance in the smells of the underground and don't dare let go of the other's hand for fear of losing the fully grown and functioning adult human for all eternity, they should be prepared to be shoved from every direction. Move over to one side, hold on to their back pocket as they stand in front of you if you must - like the teenage lovebirds you are.

PDA's (Public Displays of Affection) should be kept to a 2-second minimum

While we're on the subject of loved-up couples, please consider that many commuters will have just eaten their breakfast and downed their morning coffee in a mad dash to the station and would I feel like to keep the contents in their bellies at least for a few hours. Please keep public displays of affection to a 2-second maximum. And do NOT do it at the top or bottom of an escalator. You're going to work, not off to war.

When all else fails, play Tetris 

People fit in to a tube like pieces in a game of Tetris - if you are tiny - go stand by the door, don't give evils to the tall people craning their neck in the middle of the carriage because they aren't squeezing into the 4 foot tall space by the door.

So remember, be nice and let people off the tube before you get on. Plan your route and if you need to check something, just get out the bloody way! Push yourself past luggage and people reading War and Peace but DO NOT push in front of someone who has been waiting a lot longer than you. When all is said and done though, don't be too nice - or you'll never get anywhere!

Good luck :)

Friday, 27 July 2012

New Cover Revealed for 'Days of Blood and Starlight' by Laini Taylor

I recently reported that Universal Pictures had picked up the film right to YA novel 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' by Laini Taylor. Well now, publishers Hodder & Stoughton have revealed a gorgeous new cover for the sequel 'Days of Blood and Starlight'. The sequel will be published in November but is available to pre-order now.

Here's the synopsis:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Book Review: Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood

There comes a time in every reviewer's career when someone they know and love publishes a book. Do you dare read it? What if it's awful? Usually, I have no qualms giving low ratings to books when I think they're horrendous (just check out my Danielle Steel review if you don't believe me!) When it's somebody you know, though, it's harder to be mean, to be honest - that is unless the book is so brilliant all you have to do in your review is lavish it with praise! This, fortunately, is what happened when I decided to download Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood, the ever-fearless leader of the Novelicious team. Believe me, if I'd hated it, I would have kept shtum, not told her I downloaded it and just not done a review. Because who wants to be mean to a friend like that? So Kirsty, thank you for writing a book I can proudly share with fellow book-lovers!

Natalie Butterworth (best name ever!) is nice, a people-pleaser who avoids confrontation like the plague. She is looking forward to settling down with dream-man Olly after their impending wedding. Her mum and sister are excitedly 'helping' organise the wedding, arranging everything - even the dress. Though Natalie hates the dress, she wouldn't dream of taking the joy that comes with organising her own daughter's wedding away from her mother. After all, the wedding isn't just about her, and she doesn't want to seem ungrateful.

Natalie is horrified then when, after a night out with best friend Meg, she realises that she's been inadvertently hypnotised to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth whenever somebody asks her a question. When does she realise this? When her fiancé turns to her in bed and asks her "How was that for you?"

Natalie's adventure gets underway when she starts her search for the elusive Amazing Brian to get him to un-hypnotise her before anything can ruin the wedding (as if telling her fiancé he's bad in the sack didn't already do that!). It is an adventure that will take her to the quaint village of Little Trooley, where she meets the rather gorgeous Riley, owner of The Little Whimsey pub, and a whole host of brilliant village characters.

Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood is a fun, hilarious adventure that will have you laughing - rather embarrassingly - in public on numerous occasions. Natalie is a great central character and seeing her get in touch with her own hidden honesty is endearing, awkward and brilliantly funny.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Exclusive Interview with Author Jane Green at Novelicious

Last month, Jane Green - British author of Mr Maybe, Jemima J and many, many more books - was in the UK to promote her latest offering, The Patchwork Marriage. After meeting the delightful, chatty and brilliantly funny Green at her book launch, I got to interview her about where the book came from, what she's got planned for future projects - including the return of Jemima J! - where she does her writing and just what she thinks of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.

The full two-part interview is now up at Novelicious! Here's what she had to say about which of her books she'd love to see adapted for the big screen...

You've written a lot of incredibly popular books but none have been made into films. If you could have one of your books adapted, which would you love to see on the big screen?

I think it would have to be Jemima J, just because it is the most filmic and it is the fairytale. Although, there was something rather lovely about The Beach House. A group of people coming together in a house on Nantucket.

Hollywood's so peculiar though. For years, they say 'we don't do ensemble films'. Then, all of a sudden a film comes along – like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – and it does incredibly well and you know that they're going to be saying, 'ensemble movies – that's what we need!'

It hasn't been my time for whatever reason and hopefully it will be soon!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Neil Gaiman Signs Children’s Book Deal

The multi-talented Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and writer of one of (in my humble opinion) the best episodes of Dr Who to date – The Doctor’s Wife – is to venture into the world of children’s books after signing a 5-book deal with US publisher HarperCollins. The deal is for three children’s novels and two picture books – one of which will be Chu’s Day, a story about a sneeze-prone panda.

"Chu's Day is the first book I've ever written for really little kids. Ones who cannot read. Ones who can only just walk. Those ones. I hope that they like it, or at least, that they love Adam Rex's amazing illustrations," said Gaiman. He adds that the book will "test his sneeze-resisting powers to the limit – there's the library (dusty books!), the diner (pepper!), and then the circus (all those animals!). How big can a sneeze really be? Just wait and see …"
Anything that involves pandas is good with me, but throw Gaiman into the mix and I am one very excitable lady!

And just for a giggle - if you haven't seen this brilliant video of an actual sneezing panda and the fright the kid gives the mother - check it out at YouTube now!

 Source: The Guardian

Thursday, 12 July 2012

IS IT JUST ME? NO IT’S US TOO! - Miranda Hart needs you!

I've been told by quite a few people that they're reminded of me whenever they watch comedienne Miranda Hart on TV. Supposedly, because she's tall and funny (well that's how I choose to take it anyway!) So, I couldn't help but pass on this fab press release about Miranda's new book "Is It Just Me?" and how you can get involved ...


Miranda Hart has decided to share a wealth of awkward experiences and embarrassing stories and provide a Miran-ual for life in her brand new book Is It Just Me?

In order to allay her fears that we all come-a-cropper in life, she is asking you, the Great British public, to get in touch and share your pain because a problem shared is a … well something we can all laugh at.

Publishers Hodder And Stoughton, have launched an initiative entitled ‘No It’s Us Too’ which offers readers the chance to appear in an e-book, sharing their own cringe worthy tales. Launching in July, the ‘No It’s Us Too’ mission will see Miranda choosing her favourite Twitter stories, the best of which will be illustrated and featured on a special ‘No It’s Us Too’ tumblr and then anthologised in e-book compilation in September.

All you need to do to get involved is tweet your embarrassing stories to @NoItsUsToo! using hashtag #IsItJustMe and the best ones will be published by Hodder in the No Its Us Too! eBook compilation.

In her brilliant first book Is It Just Me? Miranda Hart confides hilariously uncomfortable truths about her life and offers inimitable advice for how to navigate those unexpected delicate moments. Witty, wise and ‘such fun’, this is a much-needed manual for the avoidance of embarrassment - it is, in fact, a Miran-ual, for all those out there who often wonder ‘Is It Just Me?’

Is It Just Me? is published on 11 October and is expected be one of the biggest books this Christmas. Visit the official tumblr site at

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy Gets a Cover

The first adult fiction book by Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling finally has a cover, as revealed on the Little, Brown website today. The cover was designed by Mario J. Pulice with illustration and hand lettering by Joel Holland.

What do you think of it? Are you excited to read the book?


When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

The Casual Vacancy will be published worldwide in the English language on 27th September 2012 in hardback (£20.00), ebook (£11.99), unabridged audio download (£20.00) and on CD (£30.00). It is available to pre-order now...

Source: Little, Brown