Laura

I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts. I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Use That Song

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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.

Today’s prompt is all about using song titles.

Use the song titles below in your piece of writing that begins with the line, ‘What do you know about it?’

The song titles are:

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Respect.

Thriller.

Can’t Stop The Feeling.

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Competitions: Winner of a Signed Copy of French Kissing by Lynne Shelby

Accent Press, 2015.

Accent Press, 2015.

Lynne Shelby is the author of French Kissing (released by Accent Press in 2015.) 

Lynne very kindly gave me a signed copy of her fantastic debut novel, French Kissing to give away to one winner. If you like romance, then this book is perfect.

Congratulations to Mary Lewis who has been chosen at random in our draw. I’ll be e-mailing you soon, Mary.

About the book:

Anna Mitchel has been writing letters to her French penfriend, Alexandre Tourville, for fifteen years, but hasn’t seen him since they met as children on a school exchange trip. When Paris-based Alex, now a successful professional photographer, comes to work in London, Anna fails to recognise him. Instead of the small, geeky boy she remembers, he is tall, broad-shouldered and gorgeous.

Anna’s female friends are soon swooning over Alex’s Gallic charm, and Anna’s boyfriend, Nick, is becoming increasingly jealous of their friendship.           

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Competitions: Win a Signed Copy of French Kissing by Lynne Shelby

4

Accent Press, August 2015

Lynne Shelby is the author of French Kissing (released by Accent Press in 2015.) 

Lynne has very kindly given me a signed copy of her fantastic debut novel, French Kissing to give away to one winner. If you like romance, then this book is perfect.

About the book:

Anna Mitchel has been writing letters to her French penfriend, Alexandre Tourville, for fifteen years, but hasn’t seen him since they met as children on a school exchange trip. When Paris-based Alex, now a successful professional photographer, comes to work in London, Anna fails to recognise him. Instead of the small, geeky boy she remembers, he is tall, broad-shouldered and gorgeous.

Anna’s female friends are soon swooning over Alex’s Gallic charm, and Anna’s boyfriend, Nick, is becoming increasingly jealous of their friendship.           

When Alex has to return to Paris to oversee the hanging of his photographs in an exhibition, he invites Anna to accompany him so that he can show her the city he adores …

How to enter: 

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My March Favourites (a little late….)

Paragon Studios, Warner Bros. Television and Netflix.

Paragon Studios, Warner Bros. Television and Netflix.

Hello all.

How was everyone’s Easter weekend? I may have indulged in an Easter egg… or two.

This is a little late but better late than never. I wanted to share some of my favourite things from March.

Although it was a little bit of a quiet month purchase wise, my favourites include a book, stationary and two of my favourite Lush products.

My first favourite is a TV show. It is one I have mentioned before and it is Gilmore Girls. More specifically, I am talking about the revival episodes. As I was late to the TV show, I was able to finish series seven and move straight into A Year in the Life.

I know fans of the show are divided over these new episodes but I have to say I loved them. The best scene for me involves Rory and rooftop golf (that is all I will say about it in case some of you haven’t seen it. There was one body shaming scene I wasn’t so keen on.) And of course, there are those famous last four words.

I feel these were a nice continuance of the last series which I feel didn’t close properly.

I really, really hope that the makers of Gilmore Girls decide on another series.

BestFiends_5My next favourite is an app and I feel as though I am late to this party. Two words… Best Fiends.

It is stupidly addictive and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop playing it. I have been stuck on a particular level for days and it is driving me crazy.

On a serious note, this app is good for anxiety as it has you concentrating on the game that it takes your mind off things for a while. For anyone who is not familiar with this game, you have a team of bugs and you have to defeat the slugs and reach goals to move onto the next level. It’s very colourful and doesn’t take a lot of effort to play.

Next up is the first of the Lush products to feature in this favourites list. Plum Rain shower gel, although not new to Lush (I’m told it was an exclusive to the Oxford Street store,) is now available across all the Lush stores and I love it.

It’s a beautiful scent (in my opinion anyway.)

This shower gel I believe is a little different to the other ones available. Plus, it’s purple.

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Competitions: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses Winner

Carole-in-blackThis week, we’ve been celebrating the paperback release of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews with a very special competition. 

We were holding a paper chain of thanks. It was your chance to nominate someone who you thought deserved a copy of Carole’s new novel, whether it be yourself, a friend or a family member.

Congratulations to Louise who was nominated by her friend, Sarah Prescott. A copy of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses will soon be on its way to you.

 

About the novel: 

Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.

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New Book Releases in April

lee childI wanted to share six of the new book releases I’m excited about for April.

It’s April. Already four months into the year. It’s also great to finally see some sun, even if it’s only a glimpse. We need to make the most of it whilst we can.

Another month means another set of new book releases and this month has a cracker of a list of new novels.

 

First up is Night School by Lee Child (released by Bantam Press on 6th April.)

This is the twenty-first outing for Jack Reacher and this title gets its paperback release this month. This novel sees Jack Reacher go back to his army days but now he is not in uniform.

With Sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders.

 

bernard cornwellAnother series to see a new release is The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell (due to be released by Harper on 20th April.)

This is the tenth book in the Last Kingdom series and is also being released in paperback.

Britain is in a state of unease. Northumbria’s Viking ruler and Mercia’s Saxon Queen have agreed to a truce.

England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred has at last got a chance to take back the home his Uncle stole from him many years ago and is where his scheming cousin still lives.

However, enemies distract him from his dream and new ones enter the fight for England’s kingdoms. Uhtred is determined to reclaim his birth right but he will need all the knowledge he has gained to try.

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Author Interview: Meg Howrey Talks About Her Book, The Wanderers

Meg Howrey

Meg Howrey (photo credit: Mark Hanauer.)

Hello Meg, it’s so lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Wanderers (released yesterday and has, in my opinion one of the prettiest book covers.) Can you tell me about the novel and how the idea originated?

Thank you! (And I love that cover too.)

“The Wanderers” imagines that a private space company is four years away from sending the first crew of humans to Mars. Three astronauts have been selected, and as part of their training they are asked to undergo a seventeen-month simulation of the mission. The story is told from the point of view of the crewmembers, and also from some of the people they’ll be leaving behind: a wife, a daughter, and a son. We also hear from of one of the people tasked with observing and evaluating the astronauts. It’s a story about ambition, isolation, inner space, the problem of knowing what is “real” or even what “real” means, and the different kinds of personal simulations human beings find themselves in. (I hope it’s also a little bit funnier than my description!)

The idea for the book was inspired by a newspaper article I read concerning a simulated Mars mission: six volunteers spent 520 days in a module, being tested for the kind of psychological and physiological stresses a crew might experience in a long-duration space expedition. I thought it sounded like an incredibly cool setting for a novel.

 

What was your approach to the writing process with this novel – did you plan a lot, wait until you had a whole draft before editing?

I spent over a year researching before I wrote anything at all. The research continued for the length of writing: about four years. I don’t outline, but I spent months writing the first chapter and thinking through the general shape of the book. I revise CONSTANTLY.

 

Once you’d written your first novel, could you tell me a bit about the route you had to publication and how the process was different with this novel?

The first novel I wrote didn’t sell—just got very lovely rejection letters. So I put it away and tried again. The second book sold, and the editor who acquired it was interested in that first book, and told me to take it out and work on it a bit. I did, and it became my second published novel. (Lesson: you never know.) I don’t usually show anyone what I’m working on until it’s finished, so with “The Wanderers” my literary agent only knew that I was working on “something with astronauts in it.” It’s my first book to be published in the U.K, which is tremendously exciting for me.

 

Do you have any writing rituals – coffee before you start? No noise etc.

I avoid all rituals or rules involving writing other than Work Hard and Care About Everything.

 

Do you have any advice for anyone who might be suffering from writers block?

Well, I’m reluctant to give advice but I can say what I think it true. It’s this: writing isn’t about word count or how many hours a day you spend typing. (It’s also not about publishing.) Writing is a way of confronting the world. When I’m stuck, it’s because I’m not confronting the world, I’m confronting the “idea of being a writer.” That’s a closed-loop system. So, I go to museums, art galleries, concerts, plays, and read poetry and non-fiction. I stop being “person who is trying to write” and let myself be a reader, an audience member, a student. At a certain point, it becomes clear that being a writer MEANS being a reader, an audience member, a student. I get excited about what I’m observing, learning, confronting, and I want to talk about it, figure it out, and make something of my own.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Sliding Doors

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x1641-300x16411-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x1641-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-300x164-1-1-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.pngFiction 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.

Today’s prompt is going to ask what if?

Put your character in a situation where they have to make a split decision. Do they or do they not get on a specific train or bus? Do they decide to go out or stay in? Do or don’t they post an important letter or send an urgent e-mail. The situation can be anything you like.

Write two pieces. The first is if they did something and the second is from the point of view of if they didn’t do something – for example, the consequences for getting on and not getting on a train. How do the situations differ?

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Blog Tour: A Paper Chain of Thanks with Carole Matthews

Paperhearts and Summer KissesPaper Hearts and Summer Kisses is the new release from the lovely and brilliant Carole Matthews and we HAVE ONE COPY TO GIVE AWAY. 

This book is released today by Sphere and I am so happy and excited to be kicking off this very special blog tour.

Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.

Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn – and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking. And then, all of sudden, her world is turned upside down. 

Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

To celebrate the release of this gorgeous book, we are creating a paper chain of thanks.

Carole-in-blackThis is a chance to win a copy of this book for someone you want to say thank you to. Maybe a parent or a friend? A teacher? A neighbour? It can be anyone you like. Maybe you want to simply say thank you to yourself for a job well done?

To enter – simply tell me in the comments below your name and the person you’d like to nominate to win this book whether it be you or someone else and why you think you or they deserve a copy of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

Make a comment below by the closing date of Thursday 13th April 2017 at 23.59.

A winner will then be selected by me from the entries and announced on the Novel Kicks blog on Friday 14th April 2017.

(The person who entered will also be notified by e-mail. UK only.)

 

Our verdict on Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses…

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Editing

Novel Kicks Writing RoomFor today’s exercise, I thought we could look at editing. 

This is one of the most important parts of the process. This is a chance to tidy and polish your piece of writing before it goes on to an editor or an agent.

How do you like to approach the process? Do you like to wait for a first draft or edit as you go?

Write a piece of fiction no more than seven hundred and fifty words. Start it using this sentence, ‘The front door was black with a copper horseshoe knocker.’

Once you are done, try to put it away for a couple of days.

When you are ready to come back to it, edit it down to five hundred words. Then, once you’re happy with it, pass it on to someone you trust for feedback.

How was it? Did you find it a simple process? An enjoyable one? Quite difficult?

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The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons – Extract

choir on hope streetHello everyone. Today, I am pleased to be welcoming Annie Lyons to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her new book, Choir on Hope Street which is due to be released on 6th April by HQ. 

The best things in life happen when you least expect them
Nat’s husband has just said the six words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you any more’.

Caroline’s estranged mother has to move into her house turning her perfectly ordered world upside down.

Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the beloved local community centre is threatened with closure. And when the only way to save it is to form a community choir – none of the Hope Street residents, least of all Nat and Caroline, expect the results…

Thanks to HQ and Annie, we have an extract to share with you today. Enjoy!

(Strong language warning.) 

CHAPTER ONE

NATALIE

‘I don’t love you any more.’

That was it. Six words delivered so simply, as if he were reading the news.

‘Good evening and here is the news. The marriage of Natalie and Daniel Garfield, which lasted for fifteen years, is over. In a statement today, Mr Garfield said, “I don’t love you any more.” Mrs Garfield responded by punching him in the face and trashing the house.’

At least that’s what I wished I’d done later but at the time an odd sensation of calm descended. It was as if this wasn’t really happening to me. It was at best some kind of joke and at worst something that could be sorted.

This wasn’t in the plan. This kind of thing was never going to happen to us. Other people split up, their marriages disintegrating like a swiftly disappearing desert island, but that was never going to happen to us. We were rock-solid – a steady ship; Nat and Dan, Dan and Nat.

It had the ring of one of those American teen shows that Woody loved to watch on Nick Jr.; all jazz hands and sparkly teeth.

We were a great couple. Everyone said so. We were the kind of couple that others looked at with awe and secret envy.

Everybody loved Dan. He’s just one of those men who people like – old ladies, babies, men, women, children have all told me over the course of our marriage, what a really great guy he is.

I would go on nights out with my female friends as they ripped apart their partners and husbands, picking over their faults like vultures feasting on carrion. I would nod with sympathy but never really had anything to add. They would often turn their sleepy, drunken gaze to me, pat me on the shoulder and slur, ‘Course you’re lucky, Nat. You’ve got

Dan. He’s such a lovely guy.’

And he was. Possibly still is.

Dan was my husband, my soul mate. Of course he had his faults. The underpants on the floor and the toilet seat in the perpetual ‘up’ position were an irritation, but not exactly a major crime against domesticity. He was, is a good man – a good husband and father. He was my happyever- after.

Naturally, we had disagreements and wobbles. Who doesn’t? We didn’t spend as much time together on our own as we would like but that’s to be expected. We’re busy with work, Woody and life. Obviously it would be lovely to go on the odd date-night or even have sex but frankly, we were usually too knackered. I’d always thought that the shared bottle of wine o n Friday night with a movie was good enough. Clearly I have been labouring under a major misapprehension.

Initially, I went into full-on denial mode when he dropped the bombshell. I wondered later if my body had actually gone into shock in a bid to protect myself from the truth. Certainly at the time, my brain sent me a quick succession of messages to counter his statement: he didn’t mean it (he did), he’d been drinking (he hadn’t), he was tired (true) and angry (not true). It wasn’t until I’d picked over the remnants of that evening with various friends (my turn to be the vulture now) that I’d fully taken in the order of events.

It was a Tuesday evening. I hate Tuesdays. They make me feel restless and impatient. Monday is supposed to be the worst day but for me, it has always been Tuesday. I can deal with the post-weekend slump and Monday is usually my most productive day but by Tuesday, I am longing for the week to move ‘over the hump’ towards the downhill joy of Thursday. I often long for a glass of wine on Tuesday evenings but on this particular day I was disappointingly sober because I was having a so-called healthy week.

At least I was before he said it.

It was around 8.30 and we had just finished dinner.

Woody was reading in his room before lights-out and I had been about to go and tuck him in. I normally love this part of the day: the feeling that another episode of motherhood is successfully complete; no-one died. Everyone is safe.

If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that Dan was particularly uncommunicative during dinner.

Again, it wasn’t until later that I recalled the details: his downward gaze and hands fidgeting with the cutlery, his water glass, the pepper mill.

I had been telling him about a problem with my latest book. I am a children’s picture-book writer and have enjoyed some success with my series of books about ‘Ned Bobbin –
the small boy with the big imagination’, as my publisher tags it. There have been six books so far and my editor wants another three but I was struggling with ideas and wondering whether to take him down the super-hero route.

When I recalled the conversation later, I realised that I had done all the talking; posing and answering my own questions with just the odd ‘mhmm’ or nod from Dan. That was the problem with being a writer – you spent too much time at home on your own with no-one to talk to.

I talk to myself all the time when I’m working. I read back what I’ve just written, talk to the radio or hold imaginary conversations with all manner of people, including Ned.

I read somewhere that adults have a certain number of words they need to say in a day and that the word quota for a woman is higher than a man’s. I believe this. It isn’t unusual, therefore, for me to unpack my day to Dan when he gets home. I thought he liked it. Maybe I was wrong about that too.

I had finished my dinner: an unimaginative stir-fry containing any vegetable-like items I’d found in the fridge on opening it at 7.30. Woody had eaten earlier. He was eight years old and always starving when he returned home from school so I tended to feed him straight away and then either Dan or I cooked our dinner later.

I stood up to clear the plates, reaching out for Dan’s.

He looked up at me and only then did I notice how pale he looked – his face, slightly pinched with age, but still handsome. He stared at me, unsmiling and I realised he was nervous.

‘What?’ I asked with an encouraging smile.

He swallowed and bit his lip. Then he said it.

At first I assumed he was joking.

‘Yeah right, and I’m having an affair with James McAvoy.’ I shook my head and made for the door.

‘Nat.’

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April’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big little liesWelcome to the Novel Kicks Online Book Club.

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. Every month, I pick a new book for discussion. I will post a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to 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.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

This month, it is Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

It was always going to end in tears, but how did it end in murder?

Single mum Jane has just moved to town. She’s got her little boy in tow – plus the secret she’s been carrying for five years.

On the first day of the school run she meets Madeline – a force to be reckoned with, who remembers everything and forgives no one – and Celeste, the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare, but is inexplicably ill at ease. They both take Jane under their wing – while careful to keep their own secrets under wraps.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Alternative Realities

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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.

For today’s prompt, it is a chance to look at an alternative reality.

Pick an important event from history – maybe from an era you’re particularly interested in. Now question what reality would be like if that event didn’t happen the way it did.

What if Mary Queen of Scots became Queen instead of Elizabeth? What if someone else started and won World War I?

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Book Review: The Escape by C.L. Taylor

The EscapeA lovely welcome to C.L. Taylor and the blog tour for her latest book, The Escape which was released by Avon on 23rd March. 

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two-year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

 

This is such an intriguing psychological thriller from C.L Taylor. Straight away, she launches the reader into the action where nothing is as it seems on the surface. Once I had begun Jo’s story, I didn’t want to stop reading. This book is a real page turner.

The characters feel so normal in this book. The struggle Jo is dealing with is dealt with well along with the family issues Jo is having to deal with throughout the book.

I became very attached to Jo and Elise and I wanted things to work out for them. I did know that Jo simply wanted to do what was best for her daughter. She is a stronger character than even she would give herself credit for.

The trouble with a book like this though is that you begin to suspect everyone around the main characters. My theory as to who the bad guy or woman was changed throughout. There are many twists and turns that really do keep you guessing. This is a well plotted novel and the writing style made the book effortless to get absorbed in.

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Blog Tour: My Favourite Spring Movies by Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne Willow Cottage Part ThreeBig lovely hellos to Bella Osborne who is back on Novel Kicks with her blog tour for the third instalment of her Willow Cottage series. It’s called A Spring Affair and was released by Avon on 23rd March 2017.

Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.

When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage

Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…

Willow Cottage is part of a serialized novel told in four parts, following the journey of Beth and her new life in the Cotswolds. The full book will be out next this August, but for now, enjoy Willow Cottage seasonally.

 

With her top five spring inspired movies, it’s over to you Bella. 

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Paramount Pictures

Hi Novel Kicks, Thank you for having me on your blog today.

Part 3 of Willow Cottage is set in springtime so that got me thinking about films that are set in the spring and there really aren’t many that spring to mind (apologies – no pun intended).

When it comes to seasonally focused films winter and Christmas seem to have the monopoly. However, after dusting off my DVDs I came up with a list of five films I love that even if they aren’t specifically set in spring they certainly make me think of that time of year.

 

Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986)

This is of course a modern classic – charming and hilarious. It’s what we all hoped we would do with an unplanned day off school. Ferris has some good advice for us all – ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Ferris Bueller

 

Portman Entertainment, Sky Pictures

Portman Entertainment, Sky Pictures, WAVE Pictures

Touchstone Pictures, Mad Chance and Jeret Entertainment

Touchstone Pictures, Mad Chance and Jeret Entertainment

Saving Grace (2000)

I love this film. It stars Brenda Blethyn as recently widowed Grace who suddenly discovers that her husband was on the brink of financial ruin and she is about to lose her home. Fear not, this is most definitely a comedy and a very sweet one at that as Grace puts her green fingered skills to great use with some interesting plants!

 

10 Things I hate About You (1999)

Heath Ledger at his most gorgeous but watching him always leaves a tinge of sadness. A modern day version of Taming of the Shrew based in an American High School – what’s not to love?

 

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

My favourite Nora Ephron film staring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and based around the cutest bookshop in New York. Romantic comedies don’t get much better than this!

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