Do you judge a book by its cover?

book cover selection

Most of us do, for sure. The art and science of cover design is getting ever more sophisticated and there are some brilliant designers and illustrators working in the market. Each genre is building its own visual vocabulary, so that someone looking for a fantasy novel would never pick up a crime novel or a romance by mistake. Book buyers unconsciously learn the visual shorthand and all the clues which point to the kind of book they enjoy. At least in the UK – if you live elsewhere, is this true for your local publishing world ?

I’d love to know what you think of these covers on my Pinterest board (click for more covers at larger size). They are all covers I like, sometimes adore.

• Which are your favourites – and can you say why?

• Do you like the modern ones, or prefer the earlier design periods – 1960s, 1950s?

• Do the styles of particular geographic regions appeal, eg East European or Scandinavian?

• Are there covers here that put you off?

•Which do you dislike, and are there any you hate?

• Which covers make you want to go to a bookstore and buy the book?

Look forward to your thoughts.


Farewell to the bookshop

Elegy for a lost haven.



Today a cool March light is giving way to a humid afternoon, and I have just left the Anthony Frost English Bookshop in Bucharest, which has closed its doors. The reaction from the Bucharest’s passionate reading community has been shock and grief, as though a well-loved relative not seen for years has suddenly announced their death.

The city has no high street. No classic stores. Only chains and shopping malls. And a few dusty outlets that refuse to die. There is nowhere to take pleasure in retail. Only to browse, buy and leave. The enterprise with a unique identity, personal service, product knowledge and impeccable store design is absent.

But Anthony Frost was an exception.

Set up in 2008 by three Romanian friends with a fascination for the English language, the shop was hidden in an arcade opposite the Kretzulescu Church on Calea Victoriei, with a view onto the site…

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The last straw

16387958_1221176964602984_4997131151376956040_nRomania is on the streets protesting at their new Government of Thieves. It’s the biggest outcry from the people since 1989 and puts the country at a crisis point. Will the corrupt politicians win and drag Romania back into darkness, or will the people prevail and pull the country forward to a new, cleaner, straighter path?

You can read the background here to understand what’s happening this week, and here is an excellent blogpost with a very apt allegory.

Simplă, tristă și veselă

A thorough and very favourable review has been published on the blog by George Hari Popescu.


“Cartea pare o colecție de schițe, dar întîmplările se adună frumos, pentru a crea tabloul general al despărțirii autoarei de țara natală și integrării ei în satul românesc. Arabella McIntyre Brown îmbină evocarea cu observația și liricul. După ce explică de ce a decis să emigreze, povestește greutățile prin care a trecut ca să vîndă totul acolo și să o ia de la capăt aici. Ne descrie în detaliu modul în care a renovat micuța casă din Măgura. Ne face părtași la primele ei constatări despre așezare, oameni, satul și statul român. Unele capitole sunt mici lecții de botanică și zoologie, altele sunt scurte lucrări de etnografie și folclor. Aproape fiecare “schiță” se încheie cu bucuria ei de a fi acolo și din volum transpare o oarecare stimă de sină determinată de faptul că a avut curajul de a se muta.

“Cred că veți fi surprinși de faptul că această englezoaică face o radiografie foarte exactă a României și a satului românesc, după cîțiva ani de ședere la Măgura. Mai mult decît atît, veți constata că Arabella McIntyre Brown pur și simplu iubește aceste locuri și se simte integrată aproape perfect. Pe un ton amabil și cald, ea ne îndeamnă în mod subtil să apreciem ce avem lîngă noi și să ne simțim privilegiați că încă avem valori care au pierit de mult din alte părți ale Europei.

“Recomand cartea pentru că…..

Read the whole review here.

A valuable gift

Diana Maria Voicu in Bucharest has this to say about the book: “I guess I bought the book out of curiosity – after all, it is impossible to completely see yourself with an outsider’s eye, so it was tempting to have a glimpse of what an English woman has to say about us, from, literally, the heart of my country. And, yes, reading through it, I was not disappointed: a fresh, kind and balanced look at the more traditional Romanian life, its customs and way of living has rekindled my appreciation of what we still have here, in this country that we too often curse. Thank you, Arabella, for that, it is a valuable gift.

But the more surprising gift was the writer’s personal journey, the story of her brave sailing through life, her honesty about faults and suffering, joys and limitations, aging and dying, friends and childhood (you known, childhood – that happy time of our lives which leaves each of us scarred but also builds our character and strengths!).
So I found myself immersed into a dialogue with you, dear Arabella, about solitude, the energy that comes from living close to nature, the joy of being present to the sounds of the forest. Although I have not discovered Magura (or Pestera) through your book, your descriptions and stories, the details about neighbours and animals should rightfully qualify you for a contributor to the branding of the area. A real painter, if you like, in touch with the pure essence of things and beings.

I am looking forward to your next title and wishing that your beloved Magura and the life in Romania gives you the inspiration for many more books!”

Din Liverpool în Carpati… la New York


My little book went on holiday for Christmas – to New York, USA. My chum Sarah, who bought lots of copies to give to friends (bless her), took a signed copy as a Christmas present, which was received with delight, she said.

But before her friends were allowed to settle down to read, the book was taken on a city tour. Here it is enjoying the sights of a Big Apple Christmas…

Cooking up a storm on Romanian TV

Delia, Jamie, Nigel, Heston: move over. A new TV chef has arrived…

Before Christmas I got an astonishing invitation to come and do some cooking on camera.

happy-food-still-chillisHere you can see me and Vlad, the charming presenter, being hit by a high-Scoville wave of heat from an innocent-looking chilli pepper we’d just eaten.

Apart from our heads exploding with spice, it was amazing fun. And while I don’t expect to worry any famous TV chefs, it was a great new experience and I’m grateful to the team at Happy Day for the chance to chop chillis on the telly. The crew certainly seem to relish every dish once the cameras were switched off…

See the three 8-minute shows here.

New Year, new book

Exciting day! After a much-needed break, today is the start of work on a new book…

Working title: Dragons over London. The sharp-eyed among you will spot three different kinds of dragon in these pictures: White English, Red Celtic (Welsh) and Golden Chinese.

This book will be something very different to Din Liverpool in Carpati – this is a children’s story, set in London over the centuries, with a climax in the City of today.

The book will be in English and Romanian, designed as a way to help Romanian kids to learn English – and English kids to learn Romanian.

Full of adventure, thrills, fire, deadly peril and looming terror, heroes and villains, all in the great and historic City of London with a heart-thumping climax that will leave you breathless.

So the adventure begins today…