Review: Polly and The Puffin by Jenny Colgan

IMG_0316Polly and The Puffin is the first children’s novel from author, Jenny Colgan whose previous novels include the Little Beach Street Bakery series.

Here’s the blurb:

Polly heard a CRASH downstairs. Was it a monster? NO! Was it a spider alien? NO!

It was a little puffin with a broken wing…

When Polly discovers an injured puffin, she and her mummy look after him in their cottage by the sea.

Slowly, Neil’s wing heals and Polly must prepare herself to say goodbye to her new friend. Will she ever see him again?.

Let’s get straight into it… I love this little book. It is so cute. When it arrived from Little Brown, it came with a sweet little cuddly puffin (whose name is Neil and he now sits on my desk.) For people who are not familiar with Jenny’s previous novels, Neil the Puffin first appeared in the Little Beach Street bakery series.

With it being a children’s book (I definitely don’t fit into the age range of its target audience,) I didn’t know whether I was going to like it but it’s so sweet and adorable.

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Novel Kicks Calls on Avon

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Laura, Parastou, Claudia, Helen and Amy.

Recently, Helen and I were invited to attend an author event at Avon Publishers HQ in London (Avon’s Digital event to be more precise.)

With a mixture of excitement and nerves (which always seem to strike when I go to these types of events,) I made my way up to London. As someone who would love and is trying to write her first book, I am always so grateful to get the opportunity to chat with other writers (even if I spend most of the time trying not to gawk at these amazing, talented group of people who have published many novels between them.)

We arrived at Avon HQ which is situated near the Shard in London (The Shard looks both amazing and intimidating up close.) After being led up to the top floor, we were met by the lovely Parastou from Avon. It was great to meet her. Plus, she gave us a tote bag full of books. Always a bonus. We were then greeted by the most spectacular panoramic view of the London skyline. Helen and I couldn’t stop looking at it.

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Blog Tour: Always The Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

Lindsey Kelk March 2012-24 c Rachael WrightI am so excited to be welcoming Lindsey Kelk back to Novel Kicks. We’re the final stop for her ‘The Bridesmaid Blog Tour’ for her new novel, Always The Bridesmaid which was released by Harper on 7th May. We’ve reviewed the book plus Lindsey and Harper have shared an extract with us but first, we chat to Lindsey about her new book, fictional places and books…

Hi Lindsey, thank you for joining us. Which fictional place would you like to visit?

OOH. Narnia might be nice for a getaway. I bet their wifi reception is terrible, I might actually get some peace.

Is there a fictional character you’d like to swop places with for a day and why? What would you do?

My mind has gone completely blank. Is there a character who can fly and make themselves invisible who is utterly, blissfully happy all the time? No? Oh. Then I’ll just be Frog from Frog and Toad Forever because he had a lovely life.

Can you tell us about your new book, Always The Bridesmaid and how the idea originated?

Like most of my stories, it came from my friends and our lives. We’re mostly all in our early to mid-thirties but we’re all over the place on the relationship spectrum, married, happily and unhappily, single, divorced, with kids, without kids. I wanted to tell a story from someone in the middle of the two intense situations happening at the same time – one friend getting married and the other getting divorced. From there, Maddie just came into her own.

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Blog Tour: Hunted by Paul Finch

PAUL FINCHI am very happy to be welcoming Paul Finch onto Novel Kicks today. His new book, Hunted was released by Avon on 7th May 2015. We review the latest adventures of DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg but first, Paul talks to us about his process for writing Hunted.

In some ways – at least at the start of the process – HUNTED was quite an awkward novel to write. Not least because late in the day we had to change its place in the schedule. Originally, it was slated to come third in the DS Heckenburg series. But then, due to reader demand to see the Nice Guys again – those were the villains in the first book, STALKERS – it was moved to fifth.

This in itself wasn’t a major problem, though obviously it necessitated some rejigging of characters and relationships given the tumultuous events in the third and fourth Heckenburg novels, THE KILLING CLUB and DEAD MAN WALKING. The real complication with HUNTED – if you could call it a complication, and I hesitate to actually use that term – arose because I always feel it’s important in these novels to take the central character, Heck, into different environments each time.

He frequently moves from the town to the city to the country, and back again, though inevitably most of these journeys see him trawling the badlands: impoverished urban zones, chaotic city centres – places where villainy most often occurs. Even in DEAD MAN WALKING, most of which Heck spends in the glorious Lake District, I found it important to ‘toughen’ things up. So I looked for as remote and isolated a location as I could, I set the book in late November and a thick winter fog, and introduced a deranged and seemingly unstoppable killer. For all these reasons I wanted a complete change of atmosphere and tone with HUNTED. This drew my attention to Southeast England, in particular the Home Counties, specifically Surrey, the place where allegedly there are more millionaires than anywhere else in the country. So the backdrop this time would be leafy lanes, comfortable commuter towns and well-heeled villages. I also opted to set the book during a hot summer, not just because it was scheduled for publication in May and therefore would arrive on most people’s e-readers or bookshelves with the sun shining outside and a feeling that the holiday season was just around the corner, but because I wanted to create a deceptively relaxed and peaceful mood.

Nothing bad could happen on a day like this and with such scenery around us, you might think. And if you do think that, good … that was my intention.
Because bad things, of course, do happen. This is a Heck novel, the trademarks for which are gruesome modes of murder and high body-counts. But this was another aspect of the book I also wanted to tweak slightly.

If you are writing about a dedicated investigation team like the Serial Crimes Unit, and you want it to be authentic, you are almost inevitably dealing with sexual homicide. This can be very discomforting for both the author and the reader. My crime novels are essentially entertainment, and yet sex murders are such a brutal and hideous reality of life that it’s not something we should take lightly. That said, I don’t think that as crime writers we do our readers any justice if we skate around this kind of unpleasantness. But it’s important not to be gratuitous with it. And so, though Heck has investigated sex crimes before, and will do again, I try, whenever possible, to move a little bit away from that – more into the realms of macabre craziness, dealing with horrible but baffling crimes and with criminals who in normal circumstances would be classifiable as insane.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Bringing Characters To Life

BellaStitchCould there be a better place on the planet for an excitable individual like me than Walt Disney World Florida? If there is I haven’t discovered it yet.

I have more bounce than Tigger, more manic a laugh than Stitch and I’m more playful than Pluto! So to be lucky enough to be able to go with my family to Disney World meant that I fitted right in and could skip around the Magic Kingdom without anyone batting an eyelid. For the child, Disney is also an amazingly magical place – the stuff of dreams. She saw the characters she has grown to love and the stories she knows so well actually come to life in front of her. She could watch them on stage, experience their world through rides, meet them and have a photograph with them and best of all be able to give them a hug! This is the ultimate holiday for her.

For me this is what writing is like. I have these characters that appear in my mind and they act out their story. Getting it down on paper is the first step in bringing them to life, it makes them more real; with a backstory, a goal and a personality. Seeing them come to life on the page of an actual book and being able to talk about them with readers is very similar to a trip to Disney World.

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Competitions: May’s Which Book is This Anyway?

rp_Mystery-Competition-300x1931-300x193.jpgIt’s May’s Which Book is This Anyway?

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

The prize for this competition is a book but the identity of that book will not be revealed until the lucky winner receives it. It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We won’t even reveal the genre. It’s a surprise. If you feel like having a guess in the meantime though, that’s OK, just comment below.

All we will reveal about May’s choice is this: ‘A book that’s been a part of Richard & Judy’s book club. A story that asks us how well do we know our children?’ 

How to enter:

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Blog Tour: The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts

charlotte1792. As a teacher at her parents’ Academy for Young Ladies in the heart of London, Madeleine Moreau has lived her life sheltered from the outside world. But on the night of a dazzling Masquerade, tragedy strikes and she is left alone in the world. Desperate to find the family she never knew, Madeleine impulsively travels to France in search of them. But with war around the corner, and fearing for Madeleine’s safety, the enigmatic Comte Etienne d’Aubery offers her protection at his home, Chateau Mirabelle.

Chateau Mirabelle enchants Madeleine with its startling beauty, but it is a place of dark and haunting secrets. As the Revolution gathers momentum and the passions of the populace are enflamed, Madeleine must take control of her own destiny and unravel events of the past in order to secure a chance of future happiness.

I was enthralled with this novel from the first chapter. I have a love of history and this book very much appealed to that interest. It is set during the French Revolution and so I couldn’t wait to get started.

The prose is beautifully written and it sets the scene so well. I really did get the feeling that I was in Paris during the Revolution. There has obviously been a lot of research going into details – the danger and the atmosphere was palpable.

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Review: The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP) by Kate Winter

rosie potterFalling in love is never simple. Especially when you’re dead.

When Rosie Potter wakes up one morning with what she assumes is the world’s worst hangover, the last thing she expects is to discover that she’s actually dead. With a frustrating case of amnesia, suspicious circumstances surrounding her untimely demise, and stuck wearing her ugliest flannel PJs, Rosie must figure out not only what happened last night, but why on earth she’s still here. (Warning: Small spoilers.) 

The title for this book alone made me intrigued. It also made me laugh so I was looking forward to reading it. From the first page, I was pulled into the story. The writing style made it so easy to read and so before I knew it, I’d been reading for a while and not realised that time had passed (when I should have been sleeping. I blame this book for a want to snooze at work. Haha.)

I did think that the main character dying at the beginning would put a downer on the story but Kate Winter writes with such warmth and humour that I found myself laughing out loud in many places throughout the book.

Rosie is unusual in that from the offset, she’s dead. The point of view is quite unique in that respect. She is likeable, funny and relatable and I liked her from the beginning and this kept me turning the page as I wanted to find out what happened to her.

I loved Charles. He is a lovely hero and the story is so bittersweet as you know that, despite the fact that the promise of love is there with him, you know that it is too late. Jenny was a lovely best friend and, like with Rosie, I felt sorry for her and what she had been through prior to the story starting. I did not like Jack. He is a great character if you love to hate him.

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May’s Book Club: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

TheBookThiefBook Corner is our monthly online book club.

How it works…

We love books and we love chatting about them even more. Every month, we pick a new book for discussion. We will post a question to kick things off and then you can talk about any of your thoughts about the book in the comments box below. The best thing about our book club is that EVERYONE CAN TAKE PART. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

This month, our pick is: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

About the book:

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

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