Blackpool week has been and gone, and it’s getting harder and harder to write about Susan on Strictly without sounding a bit ‘schmaltzy’.

But, as Susan rightly points out, Strictly is schmaltzy, wonderfully so: it’s full of sequins and schmaltz and seriously complicated footwork,
and for eleven weeks now (that’s right, eleven weeks: somehow, hideously, it’s practically December) it’s been a source of sheer joy.


And it’s  been wonderful to hear how much the winners of our giveaways have been enjoyingCheer Up, Love. This week, as promised, there’s another giveaway. You know the drill: retweet, give us a follow, and cross your fingers.

We’d also like to share some of our favourite quotes from the book, a poignant, deeply personal and painfully funny discussion of what it means to live with depression (a.k.a. The Crab of Hate), and finding joy in life.

“The problem is that depression is like all-male comedy panel shows. No matter how much you want them to piss off, they’re still there for everyone to see.”

“I may have left my day job behind but, much like herpes, there’s no real cure for being a lawyer.

It could be worse! No, no it couldn’t. Right at this moment, in my head, nothing could be worse. I couldn’t feel more awful and ugly and sad. Leave me to my misery and this giant bowl of mashed potato I’ve made for myself.

“I’ve never recovered from the time I watched Up. The first ten minutes destroyed me.”

Best of luck to Susan and Kevin this Saturday, dancing the American Smooth to Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea”

Happy listening, and happy weekends all.

#TeamCalman #StrictlySusan

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They only went and did it. Susan and Kevin are off to the bright lights Blackpool!

And we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Mostly because we’re not sure the BBC is ready for what may be the end of the world as we know it when the forces for good of Susan plus Kevin and J.K. Rowling are united under one, glitter-stained roof. Watch this space.

Things are getting real now.

Really real.

So real that Susan and Kevin could be heading to Blackpool this time next week, joined by none other than J K Rowling.

This would be a collision of nearly all of our favourite things, and people, in one shiny sparkly episode of Strictly.

As exciting a prospect as that is, it’d be wrong to forget how far they have already come: from foxtrots to jives, from Viennese Waltzes to Wonder Woman costumes, Susan and Kevin have been an absolute delight, bringing cheer to increasingly gloomy winter evenings.

This week, they’ll be dancing the Tango to Katy Perry’s Firework (which, incidentally, is an absolute cracker of a song)

And, as ever, we’ll be giving away signed copies of Cheer Up, Love  (T&Cs at the bottom of this blog post!)

So if you’ve missed out thus far, do try again: we’ll keep giving them away, as long as you keep voting, to keep Susan dancing. It’s a win-win-win.

Click here for a preview of Calman’s hilariously, movingly honest wit and wisdom in Cheer Up, Love.

#TeamCalman #StrictlySusan

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The polls are in and it’s official: the world is a better place with Susan Calman in it.

Especially when it’s Susan Calman, on Strictly, showing us the true meaning of joy.

And it turns out joy is dancing to Queen, dressed as the Queen of Dragons, and cheering up a nation’s Saturday night.

Here are some of our highlights from the past week:

The politest fan:

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves, actually.

A surprise message: 

From one Queen to another.

And, of course, the main event: 

We’ll be safely installed on our sofas come Saturday night, ready for Susan and Kevin to show us their best jive.

#TeamCalman #StrictlySusan

p.s. this Monday next marks Susan’s birthday, so please join us in wishing her a day full of celebrations, and a lifetime full of dancing (literally and metaphorically speaking)


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#TeamCalman, assemble!

It’s time for another giveaway.





Just like last week, we will be giving away three signed copies of Susan Calman’s Cheer Up, Love (you can’t say we’re not good to you)
For information on how to enter, head to our Twitter page, and for full T&Cs, see below.
You have until midnight Monday!

In other, not unrelated and arguably more exciting news, this week is Halloween week.

Susan and Kevin will be dancing the the Foxtrot to Killer Queen. 

Which seems most fitting, really. #AllHailSusan

 Lisa is off to join the live audience, cheering from the sidelines whilst we – on our sofas – frantically try to catch a glimpse of her on TV.

All the more reason to watch – and to vote!

And for anyone who was foolish enough to make plans on a Saturday night and therefore missed Susan’s performance, here you are. 

You’re welcome.

#TeamCalman #StrictlySusan

Terms & Conditions:

1. This is a prize draw for one of three signed copies of Cheer Up, Love by Susan Calman. To enter, please respond to the pinned tweet on the @TwoRoadsBooks account.
2. The winners will be selected at random from the entries received in accordance with these terms and conditions by Emma Petfield, whose decision will be final.
3. The winners may see their entry posted on the Hodder & Stoughton Ltd  (hereinafter the ’Company’) website and on other websites and social media accounts.
4. There is no purchase necessary to enter.
5. The prize draw opens at 15:00 am BST on 27/10/2017 and closes at 11:59 pm BST on 30/10/2017. Any entries received outside these specified times and dates will not be eligible for entry into the competition.
6. The prize draw is open to anyone aged 16 or over in the United Kingdom except employees of the Company, their families, or anyone professionally connected to the competition either themselves or through their families. If the winners are under 18 years of age, the winners will be asked to have his or her guardian complete waivers, consent forms and/or other documentation as prerequisite for being awarded the prize.
7. Only one entry per person allowed. Second or subsequent entries will be disqualified. Entries will not be accepted via agents, third parties or in bulk.
8. The Company is not responsible for contacting or forwarding prizes to entrants who provide unclear or incomplete information or for entries lost, misdirected, delayed or destroyed.
9. The Company reserves the right to alter the prizes or cancel the prize draw without notice. No cash alternatives to prizes will be provided.
10. The winners’ names will be published on the Two Roads Books Twitter Channel on 31/10/2017.
11. The Company will make available the name and county of the winners to anyone who requests this information by writing to the following address Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London, EC4Y 0DZ.
12. The email addresses of entrants may be shared with companies within the Hachette group of companies but will not be shared with other companies outside the Hachette group. It will be used by the Hachette companies to send you news about books, products and promotions.  You will be given the option of opting out in those emails if you don’t want to receive any further news.
13. By entering the prize draw you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.
14. This competition is being organised by Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London, EC4Y 0DZ.
15. These terms and conditions and any disputes or claims (including non-contractual disputes or claims) arising out of these terms and Conditions shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of England, whose courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

For the last month, Saturday nights have meant one thing, and one thing only: Strictly Come Dancing. Specifically, Susan Calman on Strictly.

From the moment it was confirmed that the trained lawyer, stand-up comedienne and best-selling author would be adding ballroom dancer to her repertoire, Susan and her dance partner Kevin have captivated audiences. There have been Viennese waltzes and furious foxtrots, cancelled planes and more than a few tears (of joy and of pain).

Here are a few of Susan and Kevin’s best bits so far:

When Susan met Kevin
And Susan couldn’t have been more thrilled with her partner.

Mad About the Boy, week one 

If You Knew Susie, week two

Wonder Woman, week three*
*not all heroes wear capes, true, but Susan does

Bring Me Sunshine, week four

Each week we’ll be running a competition, offering you the chance to win a signed copy

of Susan Calman’s Cheer Up, Love.

Check our Twitter for the how, the why and the when.And check back here for weekly updates #TeamCalman #StrictlySusan

T&C below …

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If you need proof that LEAP YEAR, the new book by Helen Russell, actually works, read on! Helen is the author of the bestselling The Year of Living Danishly (and the person who brought hygge to the UK!) – but her new book tackles a much bigger topic: when so many of us are filled with indecision and fear of change, what can we actually do to change our lives for the better, and for good?

We’ve been conducting our own experiments in-house, road-testing the theories from the book, and improving our own lives along the way. In today’s blog, Kate, Senior Editor and the person who has just published LEAP YEAR, takes you behind the scenes and shows you how this book has changed her life (and the life of her desk neighbour!)…

I have many, many character flaws, but if you asked a) my boyfriend and b) my boss/desk neighbour what my biggest flaw is I’m pretty sure they’d say, in unison, SHE IS MESSY. I am. It’s almost a talent; a kind of Midas touch for chaos. I’m Bernard Black in Black Books. When I walk into a hotel room everything I’ve packed leaps out of my suitcase and strews itself across the floor. My desk is a disaster zone.

So when I read the chapter on Home in LEAP YEAR (surrounded by piles of paper and empty coffee cups) I thought that maybe I could use it to try to sort of my desk. And then, possibly, the rest of my life. There are loads of great techniques in this chapter, but the one that I felt I’d be most able to implement was what Helen called The Danish Art of Decluttering. Long story short, if it doesn’t either have a specific function, or enhance your existence through being a Nice Thing, it goes. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a picture of a hedgehog little Horatio painted on a rock for you – unless you actually feel attached to it.

This was phase one and two of the desk clearout, anyway – and it was really freeing to stop worrying about what I thought I needed and just go, ‘Do I need it?’ or ‘Do I like it?’ Another thing that Helen notes in the book is that the longer you do it, the more ruthless you get! Half a day later, and my desk was as clean as a whistle. That’s when stage 3 comes in – putting back a few touches that either make a desk an oasis, or (as in the case of hygge), make a house a home. For me, this mostly consisted of edible things. Tea, vegemite (what? It’s an iconic piece of design.), coffee beans, biscuits…but you might have less food-centric tastes. From that point on I tried to instigate Helen’s ‘one in, one out’ rule’. Working away over the next few months, I felt remarkably…light. And, er, I knew where everything was. And I was less likely to spill coffee on my keyboard. And we all lived happily ever after.

…well, almost.  A few months down the line, I noticed that the mess had crept back. I say I noticed: mostly I noticed that my boss had built a wall of books between our desks so she didn’t have to look at mine. And this is where another of Helen’s techniques from elsewhere in the book came in – in the past, I’d have been tempted to just write it all off as a failure. But actually, I now had the skills to clear it again, and faster and more efficiently: so I did. It turns out, when you struggle to make changes, the only way to fix it is to go right back to the beginning and start again. It’s not the magic fix so many people promise us when it comes to improving our lives, but at the same time it’s not rocket science, and it actually WORKS.

This is our Day 3 in a series of blog posts celebrating Helen Russell’s new book LEAP YEAR. Helen is the author of the bestselling The Year of Living Danishly (and the person who brought hygge to the UK!) – but her new book tackles a much bigger topic: when so many of us are filled with indecision and fear of change, what can we actually do to change our lives for the better, and for good?

We’ve been conducting our own experiments in-house, road-testing the theories from the book, and improving our own lives along the way. In today’s blog, Assistant Editor Becky focuses on her mental health…

I pay a lot of attention to how my body feels and notice when something isn’t right: I feel tired, I have a headache, I hurt my leg while out training for that half marathon (whose idea was that anyway?). But when I got to the ‘Mind’ chapter of LEAP YEAR, I suddenly realised that I spend a lot less time thinking about my mental health. And it’s really something we should be thinking about a lot more than we do.

I sometimes feel a little anxious, a little jittery, a little stressed. I could sleep better. As I read, I realised I wanted to change all that. I didn’t want to feel anxious and jittery and stressed. I wanted a solid 8 hours uninterrupted sleep and I was enthusiastic about trying Helen’s techniques – and the things that appealed most were meditation, and spending less time on social media. I thought ten minutes spent sitting in quiet contemplation a day wouldn’t be taxing, and staying off social media after 8 p.m. would actually be a pleasure.

It helped that I’d just come back from a holiday to Cuba where internet is almost non-existent and where my phone couldn’t even get signal for half the holiday. Did I miss not being on it, did I miss out on any crucial news while I was away from Facebook and Twitter? No. In fact, I didn’t miss out on anything and I didn’t miss it at all. But when I came back home I was right back on my phone, wasting my time, scrolling away. But I knew I could do it and this experiment gave me the incentive to not be on my phone before bed or first thing after waking up. I’ve found that I’m happier the less time I spend online.

As for the meditation side of things, the only prior experience I’d had of this was when, at the end of a particularly hard yoga class, we lay down on our backs and our teacher asked us to meditate on what it would be like to be an amoeba. Obviously it wasn’t the best of starts. But a few minutes of quiet contemplation? That’s actually been quite nice amongst the hectic pre-Christmas mayhem. I’ve only been doing it for a few days but I already feel calmer. I think it’s easier to stick with a new resolution when you don’t make it at the start of a new year and this will certainly be one I’ll be keeping.

We are so happy to be bringing Helen Russell’s new book LEAP YEAR into the world! Helen is the author of the bestselling The Year of Living Danishly (and the person who brought hygge to the UK!) – but her new book tackles a much bigger topic: when so many of us are filled with indecision and fear of change, what can we actually do to change our lives for the better, and for good?

We’ve been conducting our own experiments in-house, road-testing the theories from the book, and improving our own lives along the way. In today’s blog, Assistant Editor Federico finds inspiration on how to change his relationship for the better…

2016 has been a year of big changes for me – and no, I’m not referring to the puzzling events that have changed the world: a few weeks ago I started living with someone for the first time. It’s been a long time coming – my boyfriend and I have been together for just over three years – but it still feels like a big (and I mean BIG) move. So what better time to try and learn new ways of making our relationship work? After all there is nothing more intimate than sharing a relatively cramped space with someone you think you know well… I devoured the chapter in LEAP YEAR devoted to re-charging your relationship, all the while making mental notes on how to apply some of those lessons to my own life: by the end of it I had a plan. Now I only needed my partner to come on board.

The one thing you need to know about Basi (that’s him) is that he’s the quintessential English gentleman: loving and affectionate and incredibly thoughtful, but not exactly accustomed to the idea of talking about his feelings. That’s why experiment number 1 felt particularly promising: following Helen’s words in the book, we both drafted a list of 30 things the other person does that make us love them more. It was somewhat difficult to begin with (30 is a deceivingly large number), but ended up being quite fun, like free therapy.

We both particularly loved focusing on the positives: too often we get upset by small, annoying things and take the good stuff for granted. A random sampling of both our entries includes:

  • Baking dessert for the other person’s friends (“especially since they always come out looking like the book”)
  • Letting the other person sleep until the very last minute (and making sure there’s a mug of hot water waiting for them when they eventually leave the warm comfort of our duvet)
  • Choosing a silly rom-com for our Sunday film night (“so not what I would go for”)
  • Organising short weekends away complete with walks and pub meals (“mostly the pub meal”)
  • Bringing the Christmas spirit home every year by insisting we buy a tree and decorate it while listening to Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas
  • “When you listen to me talking non-stop about the latest office gossip and you actually care”

Some of the things on Basi’s list I expected, others were a complete surprise. And most of them were small, simple things which made me feel surprisingly relieved: no need for grand gestures, just bake more often!

We’ve also tried to have an imaginary houseguest. And let me tell you: this was FUN. The idea is simple: every time you are about to have an argument just imagine you’ve got someone staying with you. You’d want to be on your best behaviour, wouldn’t you? The best bit was choosing our guests. After a number of unsuccessful combinations (Elton and Britney? Morrisey and Celine?) we settled on a British classic: (Dames) Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Now every time we are about to discuss my tendency to make a bit of a mess every time I open the fridge to cook dinner, we can just picture Maggie in her best Dowager clothes disapproving of the “loud, bickering help” or lovely Judi looking at us like a slightly disappointed aunt. Works a treat…

Overall I think the greatest thing about the LEAP YEAR experiments was that they focused on the positive things in life, and that they added a bit of fun. Writing that list was hard work, but it would have been even worse had we been forced to write the things that we hated about each other, or the small habits we found irritating. Maybe that’s the key for our life together (and – let’s hope – for 2017 in general): stay focused on the good.

Today at Two Roads we are very excited to be publishing Helen Russell’s new book, LEAP YEAR. Helen is the author of the bestselling The Year of Living Danishly (and the person who brought hygge to the UK!) – but her new book tackles a much bigger topic: when so many of us are filled with indecision and fear of change, what can we actually do to change our lives for the better, and for good?

We’ve been conducting our own experiments in-house, road-testing the theories from the book, and improving our own lives along the way. In today’s blog, Editorial Assistant Louise Richardson embraces the re-invigorating power of hobbies. Over to her…


I’ve wanted to do more stuff in my spare time for a long time. Living in London I could easily blame it on lack of funds or time, but to be honest, it’s my own head that’s the problem. I’m often deafened by my inner monologue which always kicks in just when I’m about to start something for fun, making me veer off and onto something far simpler but definitely more important. Something like tidying my sock drawer or washing up a fork, for example. What if I end up wasting my potential?, it goes. Or what if I’m just straight up awful? It’s nails-down-a-blackboard intrusive.

When I read the hobbies chapter in Leap Year, and the bit about using NLP to quieten your mind long enough to start something for yourself, I thought it sounded pretty great. One of the ideas behind NLP, Helen Russell explains, is that we shouldn’t focus on why we can’t do something – that’s not useful. Instead, you should focus purely on how: how are you going to move on from a situation? There are loads of other interesting techniques to try in the book, but this was the one that resonated. If Helen could use NLP to distract herself from her own inhibitions long enough to pretend to be a clock in a truly odd exercise class, I could try to put the chattering part of my mind in a corner and focus on doing something fun.

My housemate happened to be hosting a life drawing class at his comic shop, Orbital Comics, and invited me along. ‘It’s going to be great!’ he enthused. ‘It’s a themed class, completely clothed. The theme is ‘Tokyo Creepshow’!’ What, like Godzilla? I thought. Turned out the models would be dressed as Harajuku dropouts and gothic Lolitas. This sounded brilliant for my experiment – the less serious the class, the less seriously I’ll take it (I hoped). I signed up with my friend Max. Strength in numbers.

When we arrived the main table was already stuffed full of artists with enormous pads of paper and fancy brush pens.  Oh help, I thought, before remembering Helen’s distraction technique. I’m only here for fun. I’m here to see what happens and to try something new. I grabbed a glass of wine.  There was a slumped pink bear in an eyepatch on stage and people were drawing it intently. Max and I were told we could sit at a tall table off to one side. We perched on the stools, unpacked pencils and biros and started some tentative drawings. Mine looked like a melted turnip and we both fell about laughing. We were like Statler and Waldorf up there.

Then the moderator put a J-Pop record on and the first model came out. He was a slender guy in a pink tartan jacket, matching miniskirt and a spiky bubblegum wig. We did a couple of 5-minute drawings to loosen up. OK, I’ve got this. Totally comfortable and not at all intimidated by this yawning blank page. Argh.

And then…

I was ok. I remembered what Helen said about distracting myself from my inner monologue and picked up my pencil. I wasn’t there to listen to all the reasons I couldn’t do it. I drew one figure and then the pose changed and we went again. Another model came out, this one a woman in a dead bunny mask and bandaged corset. They moved through more choreographed poses, each one allowing slightly more time than the one before. I had gulped down a whole glass of red wine before we started but we were hallway through the second half of the class before I realised I hadn’t touched my second.

An hour later I was thrilled with what I’d done. When the moderator said we could leave drawings out for the other people and the models to look at, I didn’t think twice and spread them out. I felt great – light and confident. So this is why people do things for fun! There’s a whole heap of reasons why hobbies are great for you (see Leap Year) but for me, this sensation of floatiness is what I’d needed.

Derailing my train of thought for long enough to actually do several drawings is a huge win. Since the Tokyo Freakshow class I’ve found another life drawing class near home and I’m feeling pretty relaxed about going. Thanks, Helen!

Things I’ve learned about taking up a new hobby:

  • Listening to all the reasons something is frightening isn’t very useful
  • NLP techniques are great for distracting yourself from your inner monologue just long enough for you to get stuff done
  • Extra-curricular pursuits really do leave you feeling invigorated
  • Guys look every bit as cute as women in pink tartan miniskirts



On day 5 Lisa travels outside London, all the way up to the Scottish Borders:




I’d like to celebrate not one, but many, independent book shops in the Scottish Borders.
I was lucky enough to be at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose at the start of IBW (yes, marvellous – thanks for asking). It’s always great to be up in Scotland and the Borders Festival is one of my favourites. For those of you who don’t know that most beautiful part of the world (think Sir Walter Scott/Abbotsford and rolling postcardy green hills) it’s especially well served by independent bookshops. In fact there is a Borders book trail featuring some of the best independent book shops in Scotland, if not the UK, if not the universe. There are some fabulous local bookshops on the trail from Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells to Masons of Melrose.

Taking time out from the packed book tent at the book festival in Melrose, I walked down the pretty streets to visit Mason’s (which has recently had a smart do-over). Two women coming out of the shop said ‘Oh I do love an independent bookshop, we must keep supporting them’ ‘Ooh yes, said her friend, clutching a book bag’. Well said m’dears, but I was spooked by the coincidence. I think it’s the mark of a good bookshop to have a full display of the best of new fiction and as a fully paid-up member of the Rose Tremain Appreciation Society I happily succumbed to THE GUSTAV SONATA and the inevitable 12 post and greetings cards. I was also very tempted by THE ESSEX SERPENT (Sarah Perry) and GOLDEN HILL (Francis Spufford).

Back to the book tent which was heaving with people buying, signing and talking about books. I think that a festival book tent is one of my favourite places in the world, along with John Lewis and my sofa. It’s thanks to the enthusiasm of readers, writers, and energetic and imaginative booksellers that we have these special places. Long may they thrive.

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And discover the Borders Book festival here:

IBW2016 - Borders


IBW2016 - Borders

IBW2016 - Borders

IBW2016 - Borders

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