Book Review: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is the latest novel from Elif Shafak and I am pleased to be a part of her blog tour today. 

‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works.

Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

 

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World is truly a unique book and like nothing I’ve read before.

It’s an interesting look at what potentially happens in the minutes after death.

Split into three parts, part one and three are told from Leila’s point of view as she is dying, looking back over her life and what got her to that point (with chapters giving back story for her friends interspersed with what is going on with Leila.) Part two is from the point of view of her five friends as they try to do right by her.

There were a couple of moments where it was a little slow for me but overall, the pace was good and the plot unfolded well. Istanbul comes alive in this story. The description was so vivid I could imagine myself there, despite it being a place I have never visited.

Leila is a complex character whom you shouldn’t judge by her circumstance. She is stronger than she seems. She is also fiercely loyal and someone I would want in my corner. I felt incredibly sad by her situation and wanted to her to OK despite the fact that I knew she was dead. I cared what happened to her.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Keeping a Diary

Many of you have probably kept a diary at some point in your lives? It’s something I have done on and off through the years.

They are definitely a window into what a person is like.

Using a character in your current work in progress, keep a diary from the point of view of your character. Do this for at least three days and maximum of five days.

How would they be reacting to current events? The race for Prime Minister, climate change? Love Island?

If you’ve not got a current WIP, choose an existing fictional character. I wonder how Elizabeth Bennett or Mr Collins would react to what is currently going on.

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Book Review: Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

A lovely hello to Laura Jane Williams and the blog tour for her debut novel, Our Stop. 

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.

Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.

One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

 

Daniel knew there was something about Nadia from the moment he saw her talking to her boss. He couldn’t believe it when he then saw her on the commute to work.

Deciding to put an advert in the paper, Daniel is hoping that it won’t be long until he can talk to Nadia. He is delighted when she replies. Soon, they are writing back to each other through the paper, not realising that fate has its own plan.

I read this book in a day, desperate to know what happened between these two characters. How does Nadia respond to Daniel’s advert, do they meet and what happens next?

Nadia is a strong female character who, although has moments of doubt, knows who she is and that she deserves to be happy. It was good to see a main character act in this way.

Daniel is a lovely compliment to Nadia’s character and is the perfect love interest. He has a Mr Darcy vibe going on (without being the prat Darcy is at the beginning.)

The supporting characters were also wonderful. I especially liked Romeo. I thought he was a nice change in how male friends are portrayed in some novels.

Having the point of view go between Nadia and Daniel gave it such an interesting perspective. It was good to see the relationship unfold from both sides and to see the emotions and thoughts of both.

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Book Review: The House of Secrets by Terry Lynn Thomas

Welcome to Terry Lynn Thomas and the blog tour for her novel, The House of Secrets. 

Sarah Bennett has two secrets: she sees ghosts, and she is in love with a spy.

When Sarah takes a job with occult expert Dr Matthew Geisler, he promises to help her understand the sorrowful spirit that seems to have attached itself to her.

As Sarah struggles to cope with the ghostly presence, she runs into Zeke, the man who left her six months earlier and is recovering from injuries suffered in an alleged accident.

But Zeke has secrets of his own, and when an attempt is made on Geisler’s life, Sarah finds herself caught in a struggle between the living and the dead.

Unsure who she can trust, Sarah must solve the mystery of the soul determined to haunt her, and save Dr Geisler and herself from an unknown threat.

This book was previously published as WEEPING IN THE WINGS. 

 

The House of Secrets is the second book in the Sarah Bennett Mysteries and my introduction to its main character, Sarah Bennett.

I will try not to give anything away about what happens as I don’t want to spoil it.

I know I have been saying this a lot but from page one, I was well and truly hooked. My to-do list got abandoned for the day as I settled in and read this in pretty much one sitting.

I immediately loved Sarah. She is a strong female character who is also facing many internal conflicts as well as external ones. She’s very intelligent, has great instincts but is battling in the court of public opinion since the trial of her father ended.

Despite the fact that I have not read the first novel in the series, it is obvious she has been through a lot. Not reading the first novel, The Spirt of Grace, didn’t put me at too much of a disadvantage as all the information needed is mentioned at various points. However, reading the first one obviously means you know more about Sarah’s past when you meet her again at the beginning of this book.

This appealed to my interest in the idea of whether there is something beyond life. There is a real feeling of the gothic and it is captured so well in the description of the house and the ‘sightings’ Sarah has.

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NK Chats To: Elizabeth Crocket

Hi Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Full of Grace and what inspired it? 

In Full of Grace, Angela keeps a roof over her head, albeit a leaking one, by writing romance novels. But Angela’s never really believed in the traditional happily ever after ending. So, she begins writing the story of Grace, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer shortly after finding out her husband Rick is having an affair. Again.

As she writes the story to dispel the myth of happily ever after, Angela begins a relationship with Mark, the contractor who comes to fix her leaking roof, and ironically, it looks like she may be on the way to her own happy ending. But Angela’s had a difficult past and has a cynical outlook, while Mark’s life has just gotten messy. Angela wonders if this is all going to work out.

Grace lies in bed at night, wondering if what Rick wants to give her, and what he is capable of giving her, are two different things. She asks Rick to move out temporarily, while they try to assess their marriage. She wonders how she can get such comfort and security from a man who cheated on her.

My inspiration for this book came when I was daydreaming one day, thinking it would be fun to write a book about two women with different story-lines, and two different personalities. I started to think of the character Angela, and what she would write about next. I decided she should write about a character who has cancer, as I could draw on my vast experience, having lost my parents to cancer, and having had cancer myself. I wanted a story-line about cancer to sound authentic, because I’ve read some that didn’t ring true to me. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom, there is some romance, fun and humour as well!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?  

When I’m working on a novel, or writing anything for that matter, I don’t have a typical writing day. I tend to live and breathe what I’m working on. I’ve been known to be sitting at my kitchen table at 3:00 in the morning, jotting down something I’ve thought of in the night.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

My favourite word. Hmm. This is where I’m wondering if I should be honest and say that it probably isn’t printable. (grin) But, I’ll choose a more suitable response and say that it’s each of my grandchildren’s names. That would be six words, though, so I’ll say “grandchildren”. Or “grace”, a quality I so admire. I really love words, we could be here all day!

 

Which authors have inspired you? 

So many authors have inspired me. I jump between reading fiction, non-fiction and poetry. So, I’ll choose someone in those three categories that I’ve read this year. Elizabeth Berg, Michelle Obama, and Billy Collins. What a dinner party that would be!

 

What are you currently working on? 

I have two books that should be released in the next year or so. Soon I will start edits on my third women’s fiction, The Smell of Roses. I also have my first children’s picture book, Happy Haiku, coming out within a year or so. And I am always working on some type of Japanese short form poetry, which is a great interest and love of mine.

 

What song best describes you? 

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NK Chats To… Jon Rance (Plus Book Review)

Hello Jon, welcome back to Novel Kicks. Congratulations on the new book Good Grief, which has been released today. What are you doing to celebrate?  

Firstly, thank you so much for having me! It’s always a pleasure. I don’t know about other authors, but I don’t do much to celebrate new books because I’m usually too anxious and worried about getting reviews and what people will think of it. I usually just have a meal with my family and a couple of drinks, and then it’s back to stressing about it! That’s the life of an author – 95% stress 5% enjoyment!

 

Can you tell me a little of what Good Grief is all about?

Good Grief is my eighth novel and it’s about two very different people trying to get over losing their partners. Holly Moon is twenty-seven and a year before the start of the book her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. Holly thought she had it all and suddenly her life is nothing like she had planned. Phil Turner is sixty and he’s been married to Bev for nearly forty years. She’s all he’s ever known. When she dies of cancer, he doesn’t know what life is about anymore. Holly and Phil meet at Good Grief counselling group and strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they help each other move on and find a purpose in life again. Good Grief is a love letter to the healing power of friendship. It might sound a bit sad, and it is in places, but ultimately it’s a feel-good, uplifting story.

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for Good Grief?

Haha that’s great. I actually made one on Spotify! Queen play an important role in the book and so definitely some Queen. I’d go for Another One Bites The Dust and I Want To Break Free. There’s the Snow Patrol song, What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, Your Song by Elton John, Nothing Lasts Forever by Echo & The Bunnymen, Hey Jude by The Beatles and One Day by Kodaline. You can find the playlist on Spotify. It’s called Good Grief Playlist. Enjoy!

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Ooo that’s a tough one. I think my all-time favourite word is bivouac. I’ve never actually used it in a book, but one day!  The way it just sort of rolls off the tongue.

 

When you are beginning a new project, how much planning needs to be in place before you decide it’s enough to begin? Do you use software like Scrivener or a notebook?

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A Moment With… Lynne Shelby

A lovely huge welcome and hello to Lynne Shelby and the blog tour for her new novel, There She Goes. 

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…  

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

 

Lynne is chatting about her five favourite fictional characters today. Over to you. 

 

Reading a novel, I find that some characters simply leap off the page and hang around in my imagination long after I’ve read the last chapter of their story.  Not that they’d all be people you’d want to meet in real life, but here are five of my favourites:

 

Jane Eyre

In books, governesses are often prim and pitiful creatures but Jane Eyre, the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, is neither. Outwardly conventional, Jane is actually a rebel against the constraints society imposed on women of her time – her then-radical ideas about equality between the sexes, shocked many of the novel’s Victorian readers! The way Jane remains true to herself while overcoming hardship, and the fact she refuses to become the mistress of the man she loves, not because of her society’s morals, but because it would mean she would lose her own sense of her place in the world, make her one of the most memorable characters in English literature. I first read the book in school when I was a teenager, and have re-read it many times – I’m always delighted to renew my acquaintance with the subversive Jane.

 

Lou Clark

The charming heroine of JoJo Moyes ‘Me Before You,’ Lou describes herself as ‘an ordinary girl leading an ordinary life.’ She is actually a wonderfully quirky girl, cheerful and optimistic, who could do all sorts of things, but the small town where she’s always lived is stifling her potential. When she takes a job as a carer for quadriplegic Will Traynor, she shows that she is both kind and resourceful – someone you simply have to root for, and hope that her life will get better, the whole way through her story. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot of the book, but Lou Clark is a character that makes you both laugh and cry.

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Cover Reveal: The Secret – Violet’s Story by Eliza J. Scott

I am pleased to be helping reveal the cover for The Secret – Violet’s Story which is the new novel from Eliza J. Scott. 

The Secret – Violet’s Story is book 3 in the Life on the Moors Series.

It’s been two years since glamorous and ambitious Violet Smith fell head-over-heels in love with blacksmith Jimby Fairfax, and moved back home to the North Yorkshire village of Lytell Stangdale to be with him.

Life couldn’t get much sweeter. Their romance is blooming and Romantique – the business she set up with Jimby’s sister Kitty, designing luxurious underwear and burlesque costumes with the odd wedding dress throw in – is thriving.

But on a romantic weekend break, a face from her past triggers a series of events which send Violet into turmoil. She finds herself with no alternative but to reveal a secret she’s buried deep for the past sixteen years. A secret she hasn’t shared with anyone, not even her best friends, Kitty and Molly, and they share everything.

With the revelation forcing a wedge between herself and Jimby, heartbroken Violet fears that he won’t ever be able to think of her in the same way again and won’t want anything more to do with her.

As ever, Kitty and Molly rally round, offering their advice and support but Vi is worried that keeping her secret was just a step too far for Jimby.

Will she succeed in showing him their love is strong enough to overcome it?

OK, now for the cover…..three, two, one….

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: People Watching

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

People watch for ten minutes.

Once you’ve spotted someone who interests you (without making it obvious you’re studying them and being in danger of looking all creepy, hahahahaha,) write about them.

What has their day been like so far? Who are they? Where are they going? What do they look like?

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Book Extract and Review: Stolen by Paul Finch

Hello Friday! It’s almost the weekend and what better way to celebrate its arrival than a visit from Paul Finch and the blog tour for his new novel, Stolen. 

How do you find the missing when there’s no trail to follow?

DC Lucy Clayburn is having a tough time of it. Not only is her estranged father one of the North West’s toughest gangsters, but she is in the midst of one of the biggest police operations of her life.

Members of the public have started to disappear, taken from the streets as they’re going about their every day lives. But no bodies are appearing – it’s almost as if the victims never existed.

Lucy must chase a trail of dead ends and false starts as the disappearances mount up. But when her father gets caught in the crossfire, the investigation suddenly becomes a whole lot more bloody…

 

I’ve reviewed the novel below but before that, Paul and Avon have shared an extract. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Lucy was still in the thick of the action, though it was mostly over. On all sides, cautions were being issued, and the responses, mainly f-words and other more imaginative profanities, being recorded on dictaphone as the jostling, cuffed men were frogmarched to the farm cottage wall and held there, each by his individual arresting officer, while others commenced searching them. One resisted more than the rest, kicking out and spitting, and was given a backhander across the mouth for his trouble. Lucy wasn’t worried. When the evidence was finally presented, she doubted there was a magistrate in the land who’d be swayed by farcical complaints about police brutality.

Quite a bit of that evidence was on display inside the barn itself, when she went in there. The centrepiece was a purpose-built pit, squarish in shape, about ten yards by ten, dug to a depth of five feet and lined with brick, with a steel ladder fixed in one corner and a camera mounted on a tripod overlooking it, alongside an upright chalkboard scribbled with betting information. 

Two dogs still occupied the pit. One, an American pit bull, charged crazily back and forth, jumping up to snap and snarl at the officers, despite the excessive blood dabbling its jaws and jowls. The other one, whose breed was uncertain, lay in a quivering, panting heap, gashed and torn and spattered with gore.

‘We need one of the vets in here,’ Lucy said to a PC at her shoulder. ‘And a handler . . . to control the other one, yeah?’

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Events: Balham Literary Festival 2019

It’s almost time for the Balham Literary Festival 2019. 

Starting on 13th June and continuing until 25th June, there are many wonderful speakers and events lined up during the festival.

On 13th June, Yara Rodrigues Fowler will be at Balham Oxfam talking about her debut novel, Stubborn Archivist.

On 14th June, Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison will be at the Ballroom at the Balham Bowls Club where they will be chatting about Today South London, Tomorrow South London.

Alex Wheatle, Rachel Reeves and Rachel Ama will all be at the Balham Bowls Club at various times on 15th June whilst over at the Balham Library, Lily Murray will be joined by illustrator Richard Merritt as they lead a fun dinosaur filled interactive storytime session inspired by their book, The Dinosaur Department Store.

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My Favourites For May

Goodbye May and hello June.

I know I say this every month but it is hard to believe that we are almost to the longest day of the year when it doesn’t seem long ago we were celebrating new year.

I will admit, I am a Christmas girl but I am loving these longer summer evenings although does anyone feel they seem to have ages in the evening, get into something and then look up and it’s nearly midnight? Just me?

As it’s still the first week of June, I reckon I have just enough time to squeeze in a May favourites.

There were many things I loved in May. It was a little hard to pick a handful but, yep, I managed it. Haha.

The book I loved in May was Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt. I have already done a review of this book and if you want to read it along with an extract, click here.

It was great to be back with DS Grace Allendale and each book in this series just keeps getting better and better.

Grace and her team are investigating the murder of a young girl. The killer is out there and it all suddenly becomes very personal for Grace.

Tick Tock was full of suspense. I wanted to know what was going on but at the same time, I didn’t want it to end. It’s brilliant. An honourable mention to The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine which came a close second.

 

BBC

My favourite TV show in May was …. Line of Duty.

I was really late to this show having only finished watching the previous series days before the new one began. My husband and I were just gripped and it is so incredibly addictive. We saw the ‘are you still watching Line of Duty?’ a few times on Netflix which may as well say ‘are you still up watching this? Go to bed you idiot.’

This show is thrilling, brilliant and utterly frustrating. My favourite character is Ted Hastings. Go find those bent coppers, Ted.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Free Writing

Today, I thought we could keep it nice and simple and do some free writing. 

I like this kind of exercise as you never know what is going to come out of it.

Set the alarm for ten minutes. Start writing and don’t stop. See if you can get to five hundred words in that ten minutes.

Just in case you need a little inspiration, I have posted some prompts below.

Enjoy.

 

Prompt 1: 

With a deep breath, she opens the box. 

 

Prompt 2: 

The music started and he knew he couldn’t do it. 

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NK Chats To… Claire Wingfield

Hi Claire, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Saving Francesca Maier and what inspired it?

Saving Francesca Maier takes place over a summer in Berlin, when a family arrive to visit old friends in the city, disturbing secrets that have long lain dormant.

Having grown up in the UK, my first job as a young graduate was in Berlin and the book was inspired by those two transformative years in my life, during which I felt an exhilarating – and at times terrifying – sense of freedom. It seemed natural to put those intense emotions into the character of Francesca, an adolescent girl on the cusp of change when she’s brought to her father’s home country for the first time.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?

With two young children and a busy editorial business, my writing is often squeezed in at the edges of the day. I like to write before the rest of my family is awake but also find many of my ideas come when I’m not at my desk. Writing Saving Francesca Maier, quite a few plot ideas came to me whilst swimming and at least one of the scenes is inspired by a yoga pose!

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Change.

In writing and in life I am always reminding myself to appreciate that people can make quite incredible transformations. It’s those transformations that can provide a lift and new momentum to a narrative and a sense of hope in life. Some of us are too often told that people can’t change and that’s when we get stuck in our place in life and our emotions. Reading novels can remind us that other paths are possible, and part of my writing has been inspired by the personal transformations of people I’ve known – especially those that come after many years of one way of being. There’s an important shift in mindset for one of the characters in Saving Francesca Maier which needed a catalyst but also required incredible bravery to stick to, once my character glimpsed that change was possible.

 

Which books have inspired you? 

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Cover Reveal: Magic under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

huwfaircloughphotography

Christmas is in the air! No, don’t worry, you’ve not skipped summer. 

I know it is only the beginning of June so this opinion may be unpopular but to me, it’s never too early for festive themed novels. That is why I was happy to be taking part in the cover reveal for Magic under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman.

 

Christmas and romance are in the air…

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

OK, so drumroll for the cover. Three… two… one.

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