Book Reviews

Book Extract: I Love You Billy Langley by Monika Jephcott Thomas

Hello to Monika Jephcott Thomas and the blog tour for her latest novel, I Love You Billy Langley. 

Twenty-year-old Netta can’t wait to leave Germany and teach in Brighton, England. It’s the height of the swinging 60s, but Netta hasn’t bargained for the prejudice she’ll receive in a country full of anti-German sentiment just twenty years after the war.

She finds solace in Billy, the school caretaker, with whom she falls in love.

But when she takes him back to Germany at Christmas it’s Billy’s turn to be on the receiving end of a frosty welcome.

I have reviewed the novel but first, Monika has shared an extract. Enjoy. 

 

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

Netta Portner looked around her bedroom as if it were the last time she would ever see it. It wasn’t.

Not just yet. But she felt the need to capture everything in her memory now, before the chaos of leaving ensued and clouded everything. As she scanned the room she caught sight of herself in the mirror on the dressing table. She turned to face her reflection, smoothed down her dress, adjusted her glasses, and raised her chin in the confident manner she prayed she could adopt when she stood in front of a class of comprehensive school students next week in the south of England.

‘Here!’ Her mother came hurrying into the room, dumping three suitcases of various sizes onto the bed.

To Netta the hurrying and dumping seemed completely unnecessary and typically dramatic. For a split second Netta wondered if it was designed to mask a sadness at her imminent departure from the nest, but that notion was soon buried under her general irritation with her mother, which Netta had cultivated throughout her teenage years.

‘These served me well when I moved here from Kunzendorf,’ said her mother.

‘During the war? When you were pregnant with me?’ Netta asked, delighting in her albeit embryonic presence in the story her mother had regaled her with on many occasions – the story of an arduous journey all the way across a devastated Germany on its knees in the final months of the Second World War. Since then Netta had never been much farther from home than the north coast for family holidays.

‘Hm-mm!’ her mother sang her response as nonchalantly as she could. ‘So a little jaunt to England should present no issue for them.’

‘It’s hardly a little jaunt, Mama.’

‘Well it’s hardly a race across a vast nation being bombed mercilessly by the Allies either, is it?’ her mother said.

Netta seethed as she flipped open the lid of each case.

Her mother, hands on hips, looked around the room as if she had never seen it before. ‘At last I can give this room a damn good clean.’

Netta looked daggers at her mother’s back as she ran her finger along the chest of drawers and grimaced at the dust she found there.

‘Oh please, mother! When was the last time you cleaned anything?’

‘Well, I’ll get Emilia to do it. Chuck out all this rubbish too.’

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Book Review: Amazing Grace by Kim Nash

She’s taking her life back, one step at a time…

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted.

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary – and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she’s a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks…

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves.

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness?

Amazing Grace focuses on Grace and her son, Archie. Both are trying to navigate through life since Grace’s split from her husband, Mike. They didn’t have the happiest of marriages so at the beginning of the novel, Grace isn’t feeling on top of the world.

Her self-esteem is really low but she is grateful she has her son. With the help of Archie, her friend, Monica and friends she meets along the way, Grace is hoping she can soon enjoy life again.

This novel took me a couple of chapters to settle into. This has nothing to do with the book or the effortless writing style. The element of the plot that focuses on Grace loosing her mother is something I found quite hard to read having lost my own Mum on this day in 2016.

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Book Review: Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Just when you thought you had it all worked out …

Best friends Lisa and Felicity think  – maybe, just maybe – they finally have everything sorted out in their lives.

Lisa is in a happy relationship with her old flame, and busy mum Felicity has managed to reignite the passion with her husband, Pete after a romantic getaway.

But when Lisa walks in on a half-naked woman in her boyfriend’s flat and Felicity is left reeling from a shocking discovery, it becomes clear that life is nothing but full of surprises …

Maybe Baby is the second novel in the Lisa Blake series (the first being The Perfect Pet Sitter.) I had not read the first book but this isn’t a problem. This works just as well as a standalone novel and the back story is worked in well with the current plot.

The two main characters, Lisa and Felicity are wonderful. Their amazing friendship is something that really stands out. Both have a lot of warmth, humour and they seem real, relatable and I could empathise with them very quickly, especially Lisa.

Miscarriage is quite a sensitive subject for me but it is handed in this novel very well. In fact, all the themes are presented well.  Carol’s approach and writing style contribute to this very much. You feel as though you are sat at the table talking to these women. The men in this novel are also wonderful but for me, it was all about Lisa and Felicity.

The plot moves at a great pace and I read this in pretty much one sitting. I am definitely going to go and read the first book in the series.

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Book Review: Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson

‘Of the four of them, only three remained. And there was no going backwards from there.’

Emily and Josephine have always shared everything. They’re sisters, flatmates, and best friends. It’s the two of them against the world.

When Emily has the perfect wedding, and Josephine finds the perfect man, they know things will change forever. But nothing can prepare them for what, or who, one of them is willing to give up for love.

Four people. Three couples. Two sisters. One unforgivable betrayal.

From the best-selling author of Missing Pieces comes a heart-wrenching story about family, loyalty, and obsession that will have you racing to the finish.

I had not had a chance to read Laura’s first novel, Missing Pieces, so Nobody’s Wife was my introduction.

The style of writing very quickly pulled me in and I found myself totally engrossed in the setting and the lives of these four people.

One of the things I loved was that these characters felt very real. They are flawed. They make mistakes. Not only does the tension build well throughout the book but I really liked how it is told from all four sides.

This book is very emotional. It had me morally questioning the decisions these characters were making. I found it hard to feel sympathy but at the same time, I wanted to believe in the love story that was being developed. I loved and hated them all at once.

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Book Review: Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston

Twins Ginny and Emily Holborn have everything they could ever need in their Wolverhampton home: a loving family, a garden to play in and a staff waiting to attend to their every need. Until, one summer day in 1926, they disappear without a trace.

Ten years later, bright-eyed solicitor Charlie Commoner is given his first job: track down the still-missing Holborn twins. Despatched to France, he’s left to unravel a web of infidelity, mystery, and terrifying family secrets.

Let bestselling author Beryl Kingston sweep you away on a journey from London to Paris, through tragedy and triumph in the search for two sisters wearing two silver crosses.

 

Twins Emily and Ginny have a nice life with their parents and Grandfather in Wolverhampton.

However, when their father dies, they are told by their mother that they need to leave and can’t go back. Also, they are not to talk about who they are when they reach France.

Back in Britain, the family don’t know why the twins and their mother would just disappear.
Years later, it is important that these girls are found but not everyone wants to see them return.

This was the first novel I’d read by Beryl Kingston.

The plot of this novel is compelling. I did find it a little slow at the beginning so it was a little difficult to get into but I am pleased that I did stick with it as I eventually got really drawn into the story of these three women and the man who was sent to find them.

It’s set in both England and France. The descriptions of the towns in France were so vivid. I could imagine them and felt very immersed in the story.

Ginny and Emily are very different as characters. Ginny is the louder of the two. Emily is the one I resonated with the most. She is a homebody and prefers to be around family. Both girls want to live their own lives but are being held back slightly by their mother; not really understanding why.

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Book Review: The Truth About Love and Dogs by Lilly Bartlett

Scarlett and Rufus aren’t in the honeymoon stage anymore so much as the honey-should-we-bother phase.

Desperate to get their sparkle back, Scarlett has plotted, planned and waxed more than any woman should have to, but none of it is working.

Which makes it very hard to start the family they want.

At least her business is going strong, even if her marriage isn’t. She and her best friend spend their days tangled up in dog leads and covered in fur.

Scarlett is the fairy dogmother, training hopeless pets like compulsive eater Barkley, impulsive Romeo Murphy and bossy Biscuit. Meanwhile, her best friend walks the dogs and pines for the man who doesn’t know she exists.

Thank goodness the women have each other.

If only Scarlett could work out how to get her marriage back on track. But Rufus isn’t sharing his feelings with her. He is, though, sharing with her best friend. Her best friend, Shannon.

Four words from her husband Rufus turns Scarlett’s world upside down.

The Truth about Love and Dogs was originally published as Love is a Four-Legged Word and as Michele Gorman, not Lilly Bartlett.

Scarlett wishes her personal life was better. Although she finds that her marriage may be falling apart, her business is going from strength to strength. She is a dog whisperer – training a variety of dogs whilst her best friend and business partner, Shannon, walks the dogs whilst dreaming about a man she has only seen from afar.

I have read a few of Lilly/Michele’s novels now and was already a big fan. I had not read this one under its previous title but it did not disappoint.

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NK Chats To: Roxie Cooper

Hi Roxie, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Day We Met (released today. Yay.) What’s it about and what inspired it?

Hi, thanks for having me! The Day We Met is novel about meeting the right person at the wrong time and it asks the question; what happens if you meet your soulmate when you’re just about to marry someone else? Stephanie and Jamie are both happy with other people when they meet each other, but they can’t ignore the strong connection and chemistry between them. Unwilling to slip into a typical affair, they decide to meet on the same weekend every year, as friends. The novel spans a ten-year period and we see how the relationship affects them, their marriages, and careers.

I wanted to write a different kind of love story, one which reflected modern times and attitudes. I’ve always been intrigued by people’s varying opinions on physical and emotional infidelity; is one worse than the other? How do emotional affairs start and just how damaging are they? It’s a huge grey area which sparks monumental discussion and, as a former lawyer, they’re something I love exploring. But it was when I heard Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This one day that the novel became fully alive in my mind. I knew this had to be an epic love story about two people who couldn’t be together but couldn’t be apart either. That was also the moment I decided that the novel would have to be set to music.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and is there something you need to do/have before you begin writing (coffee for example?)

Sorry to be really awkward, but I have different routines for different stages of the writing process! When I’m writing the actual book, I adopt a fairly strict routine but it’s carried out in a nice environment. So, I’ll drop both my kids at school then dash to a coffee shop on my local high street. Both of my previous books were written there. I don’t stop until I’ve written at least 1000 words and I need my iPod on with people walking around. I like being in the middle of the hustle of it all and I stay there until it’s time to pick the kids up again. Once I move onto edits, however, everything changes. I lock myself in the house and have the TV on at a barely audible volume – I need a tiny amount of white noise. I have to drink coffee in the morning, switching to tea in the afternoon. I turn into a complete recluse in this period, I don’t see my friends for months. It’s very extreme but it works for me!

 

Which author or book has most influenced you?

I’ve read so many books by authors I’ve admired, but in terms of ones who have influenced my career, I’d have to say Adele Parks. I read her novel, Playing Away, in my 20s and thought it was such a standout, brave debut. I researched the author and discovered that she, too, was from Teesside – I couldn’t believe it! That was the moment I thought ‘Wow – if someone from Boro can become an author, there’s hope for any of us.’ It was around this time I started to have ideas about a novel of my own but hadn’t started writing it yet (that book turned out to be my debut The Law of Attraction), but each time I read another of Adele’s books, it cemented my ambition.

 

What made you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved reading, but I was never one of those kids who wanted to write – or an adult, for that matter. The idea came to me after I became disillusioned with my former career as a criminal barrister. I come from a very working class background and would tell all my friends about the outrageously silly traditions and rituals I had to participate in at the Bar. Coming from Teesside, I’d tell the stories through a very unimpressed ‘Boro lens’ and they’d all say to me “You need to write a book about this!” I also got so fed up with people saying to me “You really don’t look like a barrister!” so in 2009 I started writing my debut novel The Law of Attraction – a book about a blonde, working class, intelligent, sassy girl from Teesside who is propelled into the posh world of barristers. I hadn’t even considered writing a book before I was 31 years old.

 

What’s your route to publication?

I did a lot of research before I submitted my debut novel to agents. My first novel was the only book I’d ever written and took me about 16 months to write. When I felt it was polished enough to allow an agent to read, I sent it off to three I had my eye on (which was terrifying!). Sarah Hornsley from The Bent Agency requested a full manuscript within 24 hours. I was a nervous wreck! Sarah called me and we had the most amazing chat. I knew then that she was the right agent for me. She made suggestions on how I could improve the manuscript (which I did) and six weeks later she offered representation. The next step was submitting the novel to publishers. I had offers from two publishing houses and The Law of Attraction was eventually published in June 2017 with the Harper Collins imprint, HQ Digital.

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Book Review: The Newcomer by Fern Britton

I can’t hold in the excitement I feel to be welcoming Fern Britton to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, The Newcomer which has been released today. Happy publication day, Fern. 

 

She arrived in the village on the spring tide and hoped to be at the heart of it, knowing its secrets and weathering its storms.

It was to be a new beginning…

It’s springtime in the Cornish village of Pendruggan and as the community comes together to say a fond farewell to parish vicar, Simon, and his wife, Penny, a newcomer causes quite a stir…

Reverand Angela Whitehorn came to Cornwall to make a difference. With her husband, Robert, by her side, she sets about making changes – but it seems not everyone is happy for her to shake things up in the small parish, and soon Angela starts to receive anonymous poison pen letters.

Angela has always been one to fight back, and she has already brought a fresh wind into the village, supporting her female parishioners through good times and bad. But as the letters get increasingly more personal, Angela learns that the secrets are closer to home.

With faith and friends by your side, even the most unlikely of new beginnings is possible.

 

I have become a fan of Fern’s novels and so I was looking forward to reading The Newcomer.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Throughout this book, I was glued. I was sneaking a page or a chapter in whenever I could.

Angela was a believable and relatable character who is trying to make a difference. The supporting characters are also great.

Whilst reading, I felt like I was by the water in this lovely Cornwall village and that is always good for the soul. The plot had many twists and turns and never quite went in the direction I was expecting it to.

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NK Chats To… Susan Lewis

Hello Susan. Thank you for joining me today. What inspired One Minute Later?

It was meeting twenty-one-year-old Jim Lynskey who is waiting for a new heart.

 

How has your approach to the writing process changed since your first novel? 

I think it’s more or less the same. I explore ideas, let my gut instinct decide which is the right one to go with and then I devise the characters I think will be best to tell the story.

 

Is there a particular place you like to write? Do you need coffee to write? Music? 

I always write in my study at home – I can’t seem to do it anywhere else – I tend to drink tea more than coffee, and I work in silence apart from the comforting snores of my little dogs. I also have a lovely view of the countryside through the French windows which can be very nourishing.

 

Which three characters from fiction would you invite to dinner and why? 

I’d invite Thorfinn from King Hereafter because he could tell us the true story of Macbeth. Any hero from Georgette Heyer because they’re so dashing and romantic and probably Elizabeth Bennett because she’s so sharp and witty.

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Blog Tour: The Shape of Lies by Rachel Abbott

Black Dot Publishing, February 2019

Hello today to Rachel Abbott and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Shape of Lies. Are you ready to play The Shape of Truth and Lies game and potentially win a signed copy of the novel? 

This is Rachel’s ninth novel and it follows respectable mother, wife and head teacher, Anna Franklyn, who is driving to work when a voice on her favourite radio phone-in programme shatters every hope that she has escaped her dark past. The caller on ‘The One That Got Away’ claims to be her ex-lover, Scott, and in less than a week, he will expose her truth on air. But how is that possible when Scott is dead?

Meanwhile, Abbott’s much-loved detective, Tom Douglas, needs to find the killer responsible for two brutal murders and unravel Anna’s web of lies to discover what connects her to both bodies.

 

The Shape of Truth and Lies Game

To celebrate the publication of The Shape of Lies we are playing a game of truth and lies. Play along, follow the blog tour to collect all the truths and you could be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of The Shape of Lies.

 

How to play:

Rachel Abbott has come up with two big lies and one absolute truth about her life. Can you channel her beloved detective, Tom Douglas, and detect the one truth? Pick carefully, then follow the blog tour to collect all the truths and enter the prize draw. Once you have all seven truths email your answers to rachelabbottcomps@gmail.com.

Full T&Cs can be found here. The next round of The Shape of Truth or Lies continues over on www.noveldeelights.com tomorrow.

Now, read on to play The Shape of Truth and Lies game and be in with a chance of winning your very own signed copy.

 

Health

  1. I suffer from sleep apnoea – which means I stop breathing in the night. My husband shakes me to make me breathe again
  2. I suffer from somnambulism – sleep walking. I once woke up trying to get into my brother-in-law’s bed (I was honestly asleep).
  3. I have visions when I sleep – vivid images of things that are about to happen. When I wake up, I take a moment to review them for premonitions of deaths. If there are none, I get on with my day.

 

Which one is truth? A, B or C? Keep your answer safe, collect all seven truths and send to: rachelabbottcomps@gmail.com (see the blog tour banner below for details of the blogs taking part in the game.)

Remember to head to www.noveldeelights.com tomorrow for the next stop of The Shape of Lies blog tour and the next game of The Shape of Truth or Lies.

 

 

 

My verdict on The Shape of Lies:

Anna has secrets and a past; things her husband Dominic knows nothing about. Secrets she wants kept hidden.

When her past threatens to ruin her present, Anna can feel it all beginning to fall apart. She is not sure what to do to stop it.

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Book Review: Written From The Heart by Trisha Ashley

Tina Devino makes more money teaching people to write than writing herself. A middling romance novelist who dreams of penning a bestseller, she’s increasingly forced to compete with younger, blonder debut authors for her publisher and agent’s attention.

Feeling forgotten, Tina realises the only way up is to take her career and destiny in hand and build her own happy ending; which is perfect because, for a romance writer, Tina isn’t the most traditional of women… Although she does see her long-term partner lover friend, Sergei, once a week which is ‘quite enough, thank you very much’. But her uncomplicated love life might soon need some unravelling when a mysterious Tube Man, unwelcome ex-husband and a shadowy figure in a butterfly mask waltz into the picture.

Only Tina can work through the drama and claim the life she’s always wanted… but will she succeed?

 

Previously released and long out of print, as ‘Happy Endings’, this is nevertheless a very well told story. As an example of a best-selling author’s evolving style and confidence, it is invaluable.

The characterisation is wonderful, with Tina (IMHO) a terrific amalgam of a lot of Romance Writers I know, which make it a very personal read (for me at least).

I would give the writing a Five Star, though I would have to agree with a couple of the other reviews in that the abrupt ending is well, abrupt and you do find yourself wondering about a few loose threads not being tied up.

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Book Extract: The Secret To Falling in Love by Victoria Cooke

Hello to Victoria Cooke and the birthday blog blitz for her novel, The Secret to Falling in Love. Happy Book Birthday Victoria. 

Lifestyle journalist and thirty-something singleton Melissa hashtags, insta’s and snapchats her supposedly fabulous life on every social media platform there is.
That is until she wakes up on her birthday, another year older and still alone, wondering if for all her internet dates, love really can be found online? The challenge: go technology free for a whole month!

Forced to confront the reality of her life without its perfect filters, Melissa knows she needs to make some changes. But when she bumps into not one, but two gorgeous men, without the use of an app, she believes there could be hope for love offline.
If only there was a way to choose the right guy for her…

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Victoria has shared an extract from the novel. I hope yo enjoy.

 

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

Here, main character, Mel, is reflecting on her grandmother’s romantic encounter with her grandad. This memory helps plant the idea of a technology detox in Mel’s mind.

I stumbled across a picture of me and my grandma. My throat ached as a lump formed. She’d died just two months ago, and I’d missed her ever since. She was my rock who I could talk to about anything; she knew me better than anyone else on the planet. I lifted my glass.

‘To you, Gran – I hope you’re raising hell up there.’ The last time I’d spoken to her, she’d told me to stop worrying about finding a man.

‘You’re not going to find anyone in there,’ she’d scolded, pointing to my laptop. ‘Do you think that’s how I met Grandad?’

I didn’t reply. Gran’s questions were usually rhetorical, which you discovered if you tried to answer.

‘No, I put on my make-up; made sure my best dress was darned, washed and pressed; and I went out and smiled at boys. It was easy to catch an eye or two.’ I’d chuckled at the time. Of course, things were different these days, but I enjoyed her stories so played along. ‘Grandad asked me if I wanted a drink. But I said a firm no.’

‘No?’ I’d queried, wondering if she’d not been attracted to him at first, if she was trying to tell me to just settle for someone.

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NK Chats To… Amanda Brooke

Hi Amanda, thank you so much for joining me today. I am very happy to be part of the blog tour for your book,  Don’t Turn Around. Can you tell me about it?

My latest book is set ten years after the death of seventeen year-old Megan McCoy and is told from the perspectives of Meg’s mum, Ruth and her cousin, Jen who was also her best friend. Meg died from suicide and her parents have established a helpline in her memory to reach out to young people in crisis who need someone to talk to.

The family are trying to rebuild their lives but there are questions that haunt them. What hold did her boyfriend have over her and why did she protect him to the very end? Was the brief note she left meant to be a cryptic message or did someone destroy part of the note before her father found her body?

The family think they have accepted there will be no answers until a young woman phones the helpline and reveals things that only Meg could know. Is she suffering as Meg had suffered and can they save her?

 

What’s your writing day like, where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and what keeps you motivated throughout your writing time?

I gave up a career in local government two years ago to become a fulltime writer and it’s so much easier having a set routine rather than fitting writing in around the day job.

My writing room was my son’s bedroom but working from home can be quite sedentary and I adapted my treadmill so I could walk and type on my laptop for the first hour or two each day. It was a great plan but as you know, it was a very hot summer last year, and my treadmill started billowing smoke! Unsurprisingly, I haven’t used it since but I have a dog now and we go out for long walks once I’ve met my daily word count. She’s the incentive I need to keep the words flowing so that we can escape together.

 

What elements do you believe make a good suspense novel? What are the common mistakes made if you’re writing one for the first time?

The best compliment you can give a writer is that their book was a page turner and that’s particularly important when it comes to suspense novels. Making the reader want to read on is an art and to get it right you have to consider the pace and structure of your story.

Each chapter should give the reader something but also leave them wanting to know more.

The characters are also key as the reader has to be invested in them. Protagonists should be relatable and that means giving them flaws as well as strengths, whilst the reverse is true of antagonists who can benefit from having something about them that makes them human.

 

What is your favourite word and why?

Having a favourite word can be problematic if it sticks in your mind and you find it appearing in one page after another. Hopefully, the repetitions are picked up during editing but often it’s a surprise to see how many times your copyeditor has to flag up overused words.

One word that I fell in love with at the start of my writing journey was ‘unfettered.’ It described perfectly the decision one of my characters had to make in my first novel, Yesterday’s Sun. She was to sacrifice her life for that of her child and her decision needed to be unfettered by other influences, such as the love for her husband or the dreams she had beyond becoming a mother.

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Book Review: The Talisman – Molly’s Story by Eliza J. Scott

Molly’s dream of taking over her childhood home at Withrin Hill Farm with husband Pip and their three children has finally come true.

And, as they settle into the stunning Georgian farmhouse, with their plans to diversify into glamping nicely taking shape, the family couldn’t be happier.
But tragedy suddenly strikes, and Molly’s world is turned upside down.

Heartbroken and devastated, she struggles to face each day. True to form, her fiercely loyal best friends, Kitty and Violet, rally round offering love and support, but Molly doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to smile again. Until the day a tall, dark stranger with twinkly eyes arrives…

Follow Molly’s story in book 2 of the Life on the Moors Series set in Lytell Stangdale, a picture-perfect village in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors, where life is anything but quiet.

The Talisman, Molly’s Story is book two in the Life on the Moors series.

Picking up a few months from where Kitty’s story left off, The Talisman focuses on Molly and Pip.

They have a dream to convert part of their farm into a glamping business. With everything looking as though it is slipping into place, Molly has never been happier, and she counts her blessings.

When tragedy strikes, Molly’s life feels like it is crumpling around her and nothing is going to fix it…

I am excited to be part of the blog tour for this novel especially on publication day.

I very much enjoyed Kitty’s story and was so happy to be back in Lytell Stangdale with Molly, Pip, Ollie, Kitty, Vi and the hilarious Jimby.

Reading the first novel will give you insight but you can very much read this as a standalone if you wanted to begin with this one.

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NK Chats To… Hanna Jameson

Hanna Jameson is the author of The Last, published by Viking, 31st January.

Hi Hanna, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called The Last and it’s been released today. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

The Last is a murder mystery narrated by an American academic, stranded in a remote hotel in Switzerland following the outbreak of nuclear war. It was inspired by me needing to write something else before I ran out of money, and also our political landscape. I started writing it almost immediately after the 2016 US presidential election, an event that I think many still haven’t recovered from. I tried to channel that sadness and anger, and also the ever-looming dread and grief about the impending climate apocalypse, into something constructive. Otherwise I’d just be yelling on Twitter.

 

Which author has inspired you the most and why?

This is a tough one, but taking someone’s work as a whole, probably J.G. Ballard. His work affected me profoundly when I was a teenager and it dictated a lot of my future taste. People describe The Last by referencing Agatha Christie but I’ve never read Agatha Christie. The influence I was drawing from was actually Ballardian; novels like Concrete Island and High-Rise, which create this atmosphere of extreme claustrophobia in an intimidating – almost devastating – amount of abandoned space. I was obsessed with his particular brand of near-future dystopia and I think he is still unparalleled.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write and do you prefer to write in silence?

I either write at home with headphones on, or at a coffee shop with headphones on. The latter gets expensive so I only do it when I need to get words out quickly, or when I’ve been struggling to focus. I like coffee shops because, even though I put my headphones on to lock down my emotional space with my own playlists or even a TV show in the background, I can still see and hear activity, which is very motivating and distracts the part of my brain that likes the distract me. I only work in silence when reading my work out-loud, which I always do when editing.

 

What is your route to publication?

Same as everyone else’s. A lot of hard work and perseverance, deluded levels of self-belief, that only amounted to anything due to luck.

 

What elements do you feel make a good novel?

Character, character, character. I could not give less of a shit about your plot or how good it is if I don’t care about your characters. If I realise I don’t care, I shut the book. In terms of creating good characters, there are many ways to do that. It mostly involves being honest, aware of how your limited perspective could cause you to rely on harmful stereotypes instead of empathy and genuine attempts at research and emotional interpretation.

 

What is your favourite word and why?

It changes all the time according to mood, but I love the word ‘epicaricacy,’ which is the English word for ‘schadenfreude.’

 

Are you able to tell me a little about your current work in progress?

I’m working on two projects currently. One is a TV show, a historical drama. The other is my fifth novel, which – like The Last – is also a near-future dystopian thriller.

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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

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