Book Review: No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

no one cancels christmasChristmas books equal a very happy Laura and today, I am pleased to be welcoming Zara Stoneley and the blog tour for her new novel, No one Cancels Christmas which has been released today by Harper Impulse. 

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

Sarah works in the travel agency belonging to her Auntie. When she gets into a bit of an e-mail war with the man who runs the Shooting Star Mountain Resort in Canada, it ends up with her going to stay there for a week in order to see why this holiday destination – one she remembers as a magical place, is now getting the reputation of being the worst place to be.

Sarah wants to see for herself what is going on and more importantly, she wants to help restore the place to its former glory. She also wants to give the manager, Will Armstrong a piece of her mind.

This is one of the things I love most about this time of year. All of the Christmas books. The festive feeling of curling up with a book set around Christmas makes me very happy indeed.

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Book Review: Cold Breath by Quentin Bates

Cold Breath Welcome today to Quentin Bates and the blog tour for Cold Breath released this month from Constable. 

Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .

Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.

Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

Cold Breath is the latest novel to feature Icelandic detective, Gunnhildur or Gunna as she is called for most of the novel.

She has been assigned a protection detail for a top-secret guest of a government minister. She is not sure about the man she has been asked to protect; whether he is who he says he is or is involved with illegal activities.

This book was my introduction to Gunna and I have to say, it wasn’t long until I couldn’t put this book down. It had mystery running right the way through it and I very much enjoyed trying to solve the puzzle along with Gunna. She is a strong female character.

The plot throughout was very nicely administered. It wasn’t given away too quickly and it was hard to work out how all the pieces fitted together – this was why I kept saying ‘one more page’ when I should have been asleep.

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Book Extract: Starlight on the Palace Pier by Tracy Corbett

Starlight on the palace pierA big hello to Tracy Corbett and the blog tour for her new novel, Starlight on the Palace Pier. 

After an injury derails her dream of becoming a professional dancer, Becca Roberts heads home to Brighton in search of a fresh start.

And, when a part-time dance teacher role becomes available at The Starlight Playhouse, it seems like her stars are finally aligning. The crumbling old playhouse might need a bit of tender loving care (and a lick of paint!), but Becca is more than up to the challenge.

That is until Becca’s first love (and first heartbreak), Tom, waltzes into the Starlight Playhouse, and she realises life by the sea might not be as simple as she thought…

I have reviewed the book below but first, Tracy and Avon have shared an extract with us. Enjoy.

*****Beginning of extract.*****

Becca was suffering with her second hangover in the space of forty-eight hours. She’d met up with a couple of old school friends last night and had ended up at Patterns. Why had she drunk so much? Her head hurt, her eyes hurt, even her hair hurt. But most of all her knee hurt. Too many gin cocktails coupled with dancing in high heels until the early hours had aggravated her injury…again. If she carried on like this she might never make a full recovery. But it was hard to remain focused on her rehabilitation when she knew her dancing career was over.

Still, she didn’t want to walk with a permanent limp, so she needed to dial down the abuse and let her knee heal, which was why she was sitting in the kitchen with an ice pack balancing on her knee. Two paracetamols and two ibuprofens had dulled the pounding in her head, but she still felt battered.

It wasn’t the best preparation for an interview. But then, she wasn’t even sure she wanted the job. Teaching was certainly an avenue lots of dancers chose after retiring, but they were usually the ones who’d had successful careers and had taken teacher training courses. She hadn’t done any of that. She’d never considered herself the teaching type. On the other hand, she needed a job. And Jodi was desperate for an ally, so Becca had contacted Carolyn Elliot-Wentworth and applied for the position.

She drank another glass of water and forced down a slice of toast, but she knew fresh air would be the only real antidote. A walk up to Preston Park would do her good, plus it would help strengthen her thigh muscles, something the consultant said was necessary to protect her knee from future injury.

Yesterday’s clouds had blown away leaving a lovely September day. It was warm enough that she didn’t need a coat, so she headed away from the marina up towards Victoria Fountain, reacquainting herself with her home town. Once a place filled with cheap housing, hippies and squatters struggling to make a living, Brighton had been transformed into a thriving town full of artists and celebrities.

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Book Review: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

every breathEvery Breath is the new novel from Nicholas Sparks and is due to be released by Sphere tomorrow. 

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. After six years with her boyfriend, she is no longer sure what she wants, and when her father becomes ill she heads to her family’s cottage at Sunset Beach in North Carolina to make some difficult decisions.

Tru Walls has been summoned across an ocean from where he was born and raised in Zimbabwe by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. In journeying to Sunset Beach, Tru hopes to unravel the mystery surrounding his mother’s life, but the letter will lead him in an unexpected direction.

When these two strangers’ paths cross, their chance encounter sets in motion a heart-breaking story – one that will transcend decades, continents and the workings of fate.

Tru has travelled to North Carolina from his home in Zimbabwe to meet a man he’s never met. His plan is to have this meeting and head back home as soon as possible. What he doesn’t count on is meeting a woman on the beach. She’s a stranger but he has the feeling that he’s met her before.

Hope has come to her family beach house one more time before it is sold. Whilst walking her dog she looses sight of him. Scottie is brought back by a handsome stranger. Like Tru she has a feeling that she knows him.

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Book Review: Oh! What a Pavlova by Isabella May

oh what a pavlovaKate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

Oh! What a Pavlova focuses on Kate. Professionally, she is a foreign rights seller for books but in her personal life, things are not looking so good for her. She’s been with Daniel for a few years and the abuse he displays toward her is getting worse every day.

The narrative does jump a round a little bit as it’s pretty much Kate’s story told in the first person.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into this novel as the subject matter isn’t a happy one. Despite this, I believe it was handled well. Some scenes in the book are very shocking.

Like Kate’s life, this book has many aspects. Kate sees her work trips away as an escape from the situation at home. At the beginning, it seems black and white and quite frustrating. The reader doesn’t quite know how someone like Kate could stay with someone like Daniel. She seems such a strong character. It isn’t until you get further into the novel that you begin to really understand the motivations and behaviours of the characters.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: New Worlds

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayIt’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.

You have a chance to step into your favourite fictional world with the author who created it.

Do you have a good time or is the author hard to be around?

Write about an incident that happens whilst inside the book.

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Events: The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2018

chelt-lit-fest-logoThe Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival for 2018 is here.

The festival is now underway between now and Sunday 14th October.

The festival welcomes Writers, Politicians, Poets and Actors. Everyone is there to celebrate the written word. If you want my opinion, it seems like a brilliant way to spend a weekend.

Happening at various locations throughout Cheltenham, there are interviews, panels and talks as well as family events and it’s all happening over the next three days. There are some free events as well as ones that require ticket purchases.

Today (Friday,) events include a short introduction to autobiography, how to make the most of your garden, social media: find your tribe and Cheltenham Writes which celebrates local authors.

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Book Review: ‘Tis The Season To Be Single by Laura Ziepe

Tis the season to be singleAll they want for Christmas…

Rachel is in shock. She was sure that her boyfriend was about to propose – not break up with her! Even worse, it turns out he’s been cheating on her…

Grace can’t bear the thought of spending another Christmas with her lazy, unappreciative husband. Surely it’s time to shake things up a bit?

Amber knows she should be happy that her best friend Jack is getting married, but there’s a little part of her that can’t help think ‘it was always meant to be me’!

With Christmas fast approaching, surely there’s no better time to be single – yet will the three friends manage to keep their promise and ban all men until the New Year?

‘Tis The Season To Be Single focuses on Rachel, Grace and Amber. They all work together in a big department store and have grown to be very close friends. When they all suddenly find themselves single at Christmas, they make a pact to go to the annual work ball together. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned.

This book is told from the point of view of all three women. Grace has realised she’s not happy in her marriage. Rachel has recently discovered that her boyfriend hasn’t been faithful and Amber says she actually doesn’t mind being single and doesn’t want a serious relationship.

Each character has a distinct point of view and voice. They were all very likeable, flawed yet wonderful characters and it didn’t take long before I got invested in their story.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Twenty Questions

Novel Kicks Writing RoomToday, the writing room will be looking at getting to know your character by having a game of twenty questions with them using the questions below. Not everything you write has to end up in your novel but it will give you a better overall knowledge of them and how they would feel and react to things.

1. What do they look like?

2. What do they like to do to socialize?

3. How was their childhood?

4. One thing that really embarrasses them?

5. What group did they belong to at school?

6. What did they want to do when they grew up and what do they actually do for a job as an adult?

7. Name ten songs that are currently on their playlist?

8. Do they drink, smoke, take drugs?

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Book Review: Dreaming of Christmas by T.A.Williams

dreaming of christmasIt’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

My thanks to Netgalley for the ARC first of all.

This was my first book by T.A.Williams and believe me, I’m so annoyed! So very annoyed at myself, because it’s the first of this author’s that I’ve read! Dammit! On the plus side, as it’s the first, that means I’ve plenty more to look forwards to.

Now, if that isn’t a hint that this’ll be a very good review…I give up.

The main protagonist, a certain Zoe (Clumsly) Lumsley was dumped on Christmas Eve by her longtime boyfriend from university, Grant.

A year later, unhappy in her journalistic job and dreading the forthcoming Christmas anniversary, she finds solace in an unexpected all expenses paid holiday in Austria from another of her flatmates from university, albeit one now more known for being a reclusive IT billionaire. together with the other residents of the flat. This, unfortunately, includes Grant.

A series of adventures ensue with much skiing, quaffing of top quality wine and champagne, with all the protagonists having something to hide including, though she doesn’t realise it until near the end of the book, Zoe herself.

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A Moment With… Julie C. Gardner

Julie GardnerForgetting Ophelia is the new novel from Julie C. Gardner (released today by Velvet Morning Press.) She’s joined me today to talk about her life in books. Over to you, Julie. 

I owe my obsession with reading, at least in part, to my sister Nancy. More specifically to her tonsils. I was seven and my sister was six the year my family drove from California to Texas to spend Christmas with our cousins. On the way, Nancy broke out in yet another of her fevers, her throat swelling up, her tonsils the size of tennis balls. It was a truly miserable situation.

For me.

Why? Because Nancy, who was my only playmate on this road trip, was suddenly quarantined. No more alphabet games in the backseat of our car. No songs or hand-slapping routines.

On a pit stop at my Aunt Elaine’s house in Arizona, my aunt took pity on me and my loneliness, whisking me away to a local bookstore where she bought me The Secret of the Old Clock.

I curled up with my new mystery, gobbling the adventures of this titian blonde named…Nancy.

The love was instantaneous. I wanted to be a titian blonde. I wanted to BE Nancy Drew.

I read every book of hers I could get my hands on. Then the Trixie Belden series. Harriet the Spy. A Wrinkle in Time. Island of the Blue Dolphins. By the time I was ten, I decided to be Judy Blume, not merely devour all her books.

When I was in fifth grade, my parents took me to a bank where they were handing out free copies of James A. Michener’s Hawaii. The book was roughly the size of a toaster. As I announced my plan to read all 1,000 pages of this sprawling saga, my parents chuckled. “Go ahead!” (Of particular interest were the sexy scenes, since I’d recently watched my school’s puberty films.)

By then my sister had had her tonsils removed, and I’d moved on to Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities. A bevy of classics littered my nightstand and saved me from being completely boy-crazy. (Rest assured, I was still plenty boy-crazy. Just ask Nancy and my parents.)

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A Moment With: Rhiannon Navin

ONLY CHILD PB JACKET FINALOnly Child by Rhiannon Navin has been released today in paperback and I am so pleased to welcome her back to Novel Kicks. Thank you for joining me today, Rhiannon. What’s your writing day/space like? 

The short answer is: never the same. I’m a stay at home mum of three, so I always have to squeeze in time and space for writing between a million other things. I used to think that I needed to create this perfect scenario to get some writing done, hours of uninterrupted time and no distractions. But I’ve found that I actually need a lot of movement while I write. I can’t sit in one place for too long and I have to allow my mind to wander. So, it’s not unusual for me to have multiple writing “windows” throughout the day and each in a different location around the house.

 

What advice about writing would you give to your younger self? 

To start sooner! My whole life, people have suggested that I try my hand at writing, but I never thought that would be something I could do or be good at until I sat down to write Only Child. And then I fell in love with writing so quickly. It’s become such an essential part of my life, basically from one day to the next, and it sometimes feels like wasted time that I spent almost 40 years not writing. But maybe I had to be in the right place in my life to be receptive. And maybe it took the right story to get me hooked.

 

What elements are needed for a good novel?

A good novel to me is one that makes me miss it when I’m not with it. I have to want to carry it around with me even if I know I won’t have time to read it. And I have to think about it long after I’ve finished it. It’s hard to say which elements in a novel have that effect on me. A different voice certainly, one that I haven’t heard before, or a perspective I haven’t considered before. The characters have to be real and imperfect; they have to be people I’d like to meet in real life. I like to walk away from a story having learned something. And if the story made me laugh—or cry!— bonus points.

 

About Only Child: 

We went to school that Tuesday like normal.

Not all of us came home . . .

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Book Review: If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

Picador, September 2018

Picador, September 2018

This young man’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he is unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live.

But before he can set about tackling his bucket list, the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week . . .
Because how do you decide what makes life worth living? How do you separate out what you can do without from what you hold dear? In dealing with the Devil our narrator will take himself – and his beloved cat – to the brink.

If Cats Disappeared From The World has been translated from the original Japanese novel. The narrator of this book finds out that he hasn’t got long to live. In shock, in returns to his empty flat with only his cat for company.

Soon, he gets a visit from the Devil who claims he can offer a deal; one day extra of life in exchange for one thing disappearing from the world.

He considers the offer but then the stakes rise and he’s not sure it is such a good idea. Nothing else as I don’t want to spoil it.

He begins to look at his life and reevaluate. He begins to question how far he is willing to go.

The themes of this book reminded me a little of ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes,’ and like that book, I adored this one.

I am a cat lover and this was the main thing that drew me to this novel. The cat on the cover is incredibly cute! It reminded me of my cat.

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Mick’s Musings: A Catch-Up

rp_Mick-Arnold1-224x30011.jpgI shall start by saying, sorry; then sorry; then sorry again. Sorry for not having written for a long, long time. I’ll start by explaining, a little, why that’s been the case.

Just after last New Year, I fell ill, and fell hard. I’m still trying to recover and there’s no date when I can think that will be the case yet. Because of this, I’ve hardly done any writing, though I’ve been advised by my many author friends that if I can, this would be a helpful thing…I’ll see what I can do and you’ll find out the results here. I’ll really try to make that before too long.

So, what have I been doing these long months? And they have been long, believe me. I don’t think I’d have made it this far without all the kind thoughts and support that I’ve had from too many individuals to thank here. Hopefully though, you’ll know who you are, but again, you don’t know how much you’ve all meant to me.

Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and I mean a lot, though not doing as many reviews as perhaps I should. I’ve seen a few movies too, not anything heavy as I can’t take that right now. I’ve watched the entire series of Star Trek Enterprise and found it was much better than I remembered. So there’s a recommendation for you.

I’ve watched as friends of mine from the Romantic Novelist’s Association have gained their first contracts and releases as well, and I couldn’t be happier for them. You’ll have to forgive my memory as I can’t remember you all, but a shout out to you: Tora Williams for ‘Bound to Her Blood Enemy’. Also a forthcoming Christmas novella, ‘The Gift of Time’.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Free Write Exercise

rp_writeanything-300x19911-300x1991-300x1991-300x199-300x1991-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-1.jpgFor today’s writing room, I thought it was about time we did a free writing exercise/short story

If you have a subject and character in mind, feel free to write about that or you can use the prompt I’ve included below.

The story just needs to include dialogue, a proper conclusion and be no more than 1,500 words.

The prompt… 

Your main character is in his sixties. He has been in the circus since he was sixteen making his way up the ranks to being the boss.

The circus has just arrived in a new town.

One of the younger staff members gets ill and needs to go to the hospital. A routine blood test reveals something that your character has wanted to keep secret.

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