My Favourites: What I Was Loving in January

notebook_elastic_individual_sweet_2017_blue_detail_2I thought it was about time I did another favourites post. I do love reading these kinds of posts. There were plenty of things I loved in January, including stationery, a TV show and some music. I wanted to share them with you today. (Side note; I have not been paid to mention these products. I brought them with my own money. It’s simply that I’ve loved them.)

My first favourite is actually three items (slightly cheating but what can you do?)
I have become seriously obsessed (and yes, completely obsessed) with Kikki K. I am new to their products but I really can’t stop myself visiting the website. So many pretty things. I am certainly a Kikki K convert. What’s that? Oh, it’s my bank balance crying in fear.

The three products I have been particularly loving are:

This notebook from their sweet collection. I am a sucker for a notebook and this one is one of my absolute favourites.
It is hardback so fairly durable. The cover is so pretty and the illustrations carry on through the whole book.
2017_small_weekly_cute_diary_pink_inside_3 2017_small_weekly_cute_diary_front_1The only thing I have been finding is that it is a little heavy. A small price to pay though for such a beautiful notebook. I am in love.

The second favourite is my diary. I was using the diary from the Busy B collection but then I discovered this. It is soooooo cute. It has a week to view, it has little pockets to put things like stickers in (it comes with a sheet too) plus it has sections for books I’d like to read, movies, websites and expenses which were all things that helped sell it to me. It’s very colourful. It never fails to cheer me up whenever i see it.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Develop Your Writing Habit

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.jpgToday in our writing room, I wanted to talk about how important it is to develop a writing habit.

I am very guilty of not giving myself enough of a routine and being strict about it. It can be so easy for life to get in the way; that washing needs putting in, I need to tidy. It’s been a long day and i just want to have a bath and go to bed. The list can go on and on but you get the idea. A lot of my procrastination is also fear. A whole novel seems such a big task doesn’t it?

It’s time to look at it as smaller chunks of writing.

This week, look at your current writing habit. Does your current routine allow time to write? Are you finding you don’t have as much time as you’d like and the writing is the first thing to be put to one side?

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Book News: February Book Releases

neil gaimamA new month. We’re already reaching the end of the first week of February. How is that possible?!

There are some wonderful authors releasing books this month and I wanted to share a few of the ones I am looking forward to getting my hands on.

 

Norse Mythology is the latest release by Neil Gaiman and it sounds amazing. It’s released on 7th February by Bloomsbury.
I am fairly new to Neil’s books (although I loved Stardust when it was released as a movie.)
I am also interested in the subject matter of this book.

The norse myths are woven into our story telling. Neil Gaiman reaches back through time to the original source stories. Norse mythology is a thrilling and vivid rendition of the great norse tales; Ragnarok, Twilight of the Gods, Thor, Loki, Odin and Freya. These are all irresistible in Neil’s latest book (although Tom Hiddleston as Loki is pretty irresistible already if I am honest.)

 

51bpCyyEV3LBackstabber by Kimberley Chambers is due for release on 9th February by Harper Collins. Kimberley’s books always sound like they would completely draw me in. I might have to pull this up the TBR pile a bit.

One of them has a gun to his head. Who will pull the trigger?

King of the underworld, Vinny Butler goes into business with respected villain, Eddie Mitchell. It’s a match made in East End legend.
Friends and Family are treated all, enemies like rats.
Then a mysterious package arrives; dead creatures and threats. Someone is out for revenge. Who the enemy is, no one knows. There are some people you should never cross, some who can’t forgive or forget.

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Book News: Galaxy Quick Reads Release Six New Books

Feel the fearSix exciting new Galaxy Quick Reads titles released on 2nd February.

These books are part of the annual campaign to improve adult literacy.

This is the seventh year Quick Reads has been sponsored by Galaxy and the second year it has been run by the Literary Agency.

One in six adults struggle with reading in the UK. This year, Quick Reads will continue its work to break down the barriers that prevent people from picking up a book.

From a re-imagining of Beauty and The Beast, to a road trip in search of Poldark, the titles include books from Jenny Colgan and a special edition of Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
There is also a crime collection featuring Harry Bingham, Clare MacKintosh and Mark Billingham.

The first Quick read is Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Released by Ebury, this is a specially adapted book drawing on the landmark self-help book by the late, Susan Jeffers. This is the first time a self-help book has been released in this series and what a great one to kick it off.

Everyone has fears and worries that stop them from progressing and going for the things they want in life. The simple life-changing exercises in this book will teach anyone to turn uncertainty into action.

Dead SimpleThe second, released by Orion is Dead Simple. This is a collection of short stories from some of the UK’s best crime writers.

Authors featured include Mark Billingham, Clare MacKintosh, James Oswald, Jane Casey, Angela Marsons, Harry Bingham, Antonia Hodgson and CL Taylor.

There are eight stories that will have many twists and turns; a man who attempts to commit the perfect murder, a widow who is about to lose more than her husband and a murderer who, when is he is about to be hanged realises that there could be worse things that happen to him.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: You’re Animated

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFriday 3rd February 2017: You’re Animated.

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.

Today’s prompt: you are animated.

Make a list of all your favourite animations (or as many as you can remember.)

Pull all the aspects that interest you about each one together into one world and then plonk yourself as an animated character right in the middle of it.

Write about one of the adventures that finds you whilst there.

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My Writing Ramblings: The Power of Yes and No.

rp_Laura-Book-300x2251-300x2251-300x225-300x225-1-300x225.jpgHello everyone. I hope you’re all having a wonderful start to February. January was a long old month (it always seems to be for me.)

I’ve attempted to jump into planning my novel over the last few weeks (at times I have been able.) I am discovering the power of yes and no.

I’ve previously not had a good track record when it comes to my writing time. I don’t always protect it. It has been easy for me to say ‘I’ll write some tomorrow.’

I am the queen of procrastination.

I think a lot of this is down to my attitude. I don’t see myself as a writer and so I reason with myself and say it doesn’t matter. Well, guess what… it does matter. It matters a lot.

One big lesson I am trying to take on board this week is the power of yes and no.

YES, I will make time to get to a specified word count so I gradually build my first draft. YES I will keep myself to that promise.

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Book Review: The Girl on the Beach by Morton S. Gray

the girl on the beach

Death By Choc Lit, January 2017

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

 

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of reading some novels before their published date; my thanks to those who’ve been so generous to allow me to do so, you know who you are. Around two weeks ago, I was accorded the honour of being sent a copy of the author Morton S Gray’s debut novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’, published by Choclit.

I’ve read a few debuts over the years and obviously some are better than others. If you’re lucky, you’re left doing a passable goldfish impression with your mouth simply repeating, ‘OMG! OMG! OMG! Whilst some honestly leave you wondering how on earth they got published. This novel sits firmly, as in set-in-stone firmly, in the former category. I finished it last night and just sat there enjoying a special feeling…you know the one where you know, you just know that you’ve found a special author and you’re going to be ticking off the days on your calendar until their next release!

Those who read my reviews will know that I don’t tend to give much away about the plot, it spoils the twists and turns – and there are plenty here – that a good author will sprinkle around their work. Ms Gray’s story is as much ‘Suspense’ as ‘Romance’ and considering the subject matter, this is just as well. Because of this, I have to explain what I mean and tell you a little more of the story than I normally would. I prefer to concentrate on how the writer…um, writes.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Writing To Your Various Selves.

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.jpgWednesday 2nd February 2017: writing to your various selves. 

Write a letter to you future self. What would you say? Once you’ve done that, write a letter to your sixteen year old self?

Try and make the letters at least one complete side of A4.

Is there anything different between the two letters? What advice would you give to either self?

If you want, you could then repeat this exercise but write from the perspective of one or more of your characters.

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News: Baileys To End Women’s Prize For Fiction Sponsorship

logoBaileys to stop sponsoring Women’s Prize For Fiction.

Baileys have announced that they will no longer be sponsoring the Woman’s Prize For Fiction. The prize, co-founded by author, Kate Mosse had been sponsored by Baileys since 2014. They took over from Orange who had previously sponsored the prize for seventeen years.

‘We regretfully decided to make way for a new sponsor,’ said a spokesperson for Baileys.

They will remain sponsors of the 2017 prize before they make way for a new sponsor for 2018. This year’s long list is to be announced in March, the shortlist will be unveiled in April and the winner announced in June.

The Women’s prize for fiction is awarded annually to what the judges consider the best novel of the year in English by a female author. The winning author receives £30,000 in prize money. Previous winners include Zadie Smith and Lionel Shriver.

For more information about the prize, visit www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/

 

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February’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Emma by Jane Austen

Penguin Classics, 2009

Penguin Classics, 2009

Welcome 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.

As it’s almost Valentine’s Day, this month’s book is Emma by Jane Austen. 

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others.

But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

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Competitions: Blind Date With A Book – January’s Winner

img_2495It’s time to announce the winner of January’s Win a Blind Date With a Book competition.

It is very easy to judge a book by its cover. I know I do it. Our competition is one with a twist. It’s your chance to win a blind date with a book.

I didn’t reveal what the title was of this month’s book was nor did I reveal the cover. All I did reveal is that the themes included ‘obsession, relationships, secrets and loss.’

Congratulations to Kerry Parsons from Staffordshire who has won this month’s competition. I hope you enjoy your book.

February’s competition will be coming soon.

 

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Blog Tour: Clare Swatman Talks About Her Debut Novel, Before You Go

Clare_SwatmanIt’s blog tour day for the brilliant debut novel, Before You Go by Clare Swatman. 

When Zoe’s husband Ed dies, her world caves in. But what if Zoe can get Ed back?

You find your soulmate . . . 

Some people stare love in the face for years before they find it. Zoe and Ed fumbled their way into adulthood, both on different paths – but always in the same direction. Years later, having navigated dead-end jobs and chaotic house shares, romance finally blossoms. Their future together looks set . . . 

Then the unthinkable happens.

One morning, on his way to work, Ed is knocked off his bike and dies. Now Zoe must find a way to survive. But she’s not ready to let go of the memories. How can she forget all of the happy times, their first kiss, everything they’d built together? Zoe decides she has to tell Ed all the things she never said. 

Now it’s too late. Or is it?

 

I’ve reviewed Before You Go below but first, I had a chat with Clare about her novel and her writing process. Hi Clare, thank you so much for joining me today. Your new book is called Before You Go. Could you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

Thank you for having me. Before You Go is the story of Zoe and Ed. When Ed dies Zoe is left grieving and wishing she could go back and say all the things she didn’t say to him before he died. Then one day, after hitting her head, she wakes up as her 18 year old self, and realises that, for whatever reason, she’s back in the very first day she met Ed, and that she’s going to get the chance to see him again. Slowly, she realises she might even have been given the chance to change the past – and her future. It’s a story about enduring love, and regrets, and second chances.

Most of my ideas are inspired by people’s real stories. I was a true life magazine journalist for years and found that people’s real stories were actually a lot more interesting than anything you could make up! The spark for this came from a story I read about a woman who had an accident and when she woke up she thought she was 17 and didn’t know who her husband and kids were. Although this isn’t what Before You go is about, it got me thinking about what it would be like to wake up as a 17 year old again – and that sparked the idea for the book.

 

Which writers inspire you?

Margaret Atwood has always been one of my favourite writers. I love the way she writes really simply but conveys so much. I also adore Maggie O’Farrell. For me her stories just flow beautifully and her characters zing from the page. Her writing makes me want to be better. Last year I also really enjoyed the quirkiness of The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon so I hope she becomes one of my favourite authors, and I love Kate Atkinson too; although her books require a bit of concentration, they’re worth it!

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Blog Tour: Liz Trenow Talks About The Inspiration Behind The Silk Weaver

Silk Weaver jacket Liz Trenow author photoA big welcome today to Liz Trenow and the blog tour for her new novel, The Silk Weaver which was published on Thursday by Pan Macmillan. 

Anna Butterfield moves from her Suffolk country home to her uncle’s house in London, to be introduced to society. A chance encounter with a local silk weaver, French immigrant Henri, throws her from her privileged upbringing to the darker, dangerous world of London’s silk trade. Henri is working on his ‘master piece’ to make his name as a master silk weaver; Anna, meanwhile, is struggling against the constraints of her family and longing to become an artist. Henri realizes that Anna’s designs could lift his work above the ordinary, and give them both an opportunity for freedom…

This is a charming story of illicit romance, set against the world of the burgeoning silk trade in eighteenth-century Spitalfields – a time of religious persecution, mass migration, racial tension and wage riots, and very different ideas of what was considered ‘proper’ for women.

Liz talks to us today about what inspired her new novel. Over to you, Liz. 

unnamed (1) unnamedMy love affair with Anna Maria Garthwaite began on a cold winter day in Spitalfields, East London. I was walking on air, excited by having just visited for the first time the very address at which my ancestors had started, nearly three hundred years ago, the silk weaving company that is still run by my family today.

Just a few yards along I noticed the blue plaque that reads: Anna Maria Garthwaite 1690 – 1763, designer of Spitalfieds Silks, lived and worked here. I was intrigued to discover that Anna Maria was probably the most celebrated textile designer of the eighteenth century whose silks were sought after by the nobility in Britain and America. She was noted for her naturalistic, botanically accurate designs and said to have ‘introduced the Principles of Painting into the loom’. It was thrilling to realise that my ancestors would have known, and very probably worked with this remarkable woman.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Eight Sentences and Paragraphs.

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFriday 27th January 2017: Eight Sentences and Paragraphs.

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.

I find the news as depressing as you’d expect, especially at the moment. That is why I try to see story ideas within it. I love looking through articles. You don’t know what is going to trigger a story.

Today, head to a news site or grab a newspaper. Pick eight different news stories and write down the eighth line from each.
Use each sentence in a story. Each one should be the start of a new paragraph. Try and figure out a way to connect all of these random sentences.

 

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Catherine Bennetto Shares Her Favourite Alternative Romantic Novels

catherine

How Not To Fall In Love Actually is the brilliant debut novel from Catherine Bennetto.

Emma has a job in television which is distinctly less glamorous and exciting than it sounds. She’s managed to claw her way up the ranks from Tea-Maker and Rubbish-Collector to 2nd Assistant Director (heavy on the ‘assistant’. Even heavier on the ‘2nd’).
 
So when she finds she’s accidentally very pregnant and at the same time accidentally very sacked (well, less accidentally: she did tell her boss to stick his job up his bum), she knows things are going to have to change.
 
Luckily she’s also accidentally the heir to a lovely cottage in Wimbledon, with a crazy Doberman-owning octogenarian as a neighbour and a rather sexy guy as an accidental tenant. But this baby is coming whether she likes it or not, and she needs to become the sort of person who can look after herself let alone another human being – and quickly.  

 

Catherine shares with us today her top ten alternative romantic novels. Over to you Catherine…

 

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

I’ve not seen the movie but you’d have to be living under a rock in Snezhnegorsk (Russia) to not know Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played the main characters. And regardless of sexual orientation you’d be a fool, A FOOL I SAY, to turn either one of them down. Sadly, the written characters are much less lust worthily depicted…. But it’s a fabulous story with unique characters and a satisfyingly heart-wrenching conclusion.

 

Michael Joseph, 2012

Michael Joseph, 2012

ME BEFORE YOU

This book was so fascinating I read it in one day. A romance develops between two unlikely characters: Louisa; who is relatively normal, and Will, completely paralyzed, wholly dependant and with a very genuine, and not unwarranted, death wish. And oh how I wanted it to work out in the end! Couldn’t he just miraculously recover? But I’d have liked the story less and would have called it unrealistic and twee. So die he must, be sad she was, and cry I did.

 

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY

Instead of the typical mid 20’s heroine working in advertising and wearing amazing shoes, meet Bridget; thirty-something with an average woman’s body and an average woman’s job, bumbling around London in big pants trying to hook up with the bad guy while accidentally falling in love with the geek guy. It was a refreshing change to the romantic comedy trope and I (along with scores of others) adored ridiculous, kind, forever-willing-to-dust-off-and-try-again Bridget.

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