Book Review: The Sentinel’s Alliance by Suzanne Rogerson

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. It is lovely to welcome Suzanne Rogerson to Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her latest novel in the Silent Sea Chronicles, The Sentinel’s Alliance.

As the island of Kalaya and its people recover from civil war, a new threat surfaces. Invaders from the island of Elkena hunt the seas, butchering those who possess magic. Their scar-faced captain seeks the Fire Mage who it has been foretold will kill him and Tei and her people are in his warpath.

Tei and a band of Kalayans travel to Stone Haven, the home of their new allies, planning to restore magic to the dead island. But the Stone Haven Council have abhorred magic since their people were massacred by Elkenan invaders twenty years before. Commander Farrell must persuade his people to accept magic again, but his plans expose them to their biggest fear and he risks leading Tei and her people into danger, and jeopardising the safety of both their islands.

Under Farrell’s guidance treaties are forged, but is the newly formed Silent Sea Alliance enough to defeat the invaders and stop their bloodthirsty quest to destroy magic forever?

 

The Sentinel’s Alliance is the third part in the Silent Sea Chronicles, following the stories of Tei, Callisa and Farrell and their lives on the islands of Kalaya and Stone Haven.

If you are unfamiliar with the series then book three won’t stand alone, so I suggest that you start at the beginning.

For those of you familiar with the Silent Sea Chronicles, book three sees Kalaya’s Sentinel, Calissa, working with Farrell and the people of Stone Haven to build an alliance with the peoples of other islands in the Silent Sea to ward off the threat of the invaders from Elkena, bent on eradicating magic from the world.

I very much enjoyed reading this and as with the other books in the series, I feel it tried to hold up a mirror to our world.

It tries to show us, through communication and understanding, how we can build a better world for everyone and how, by working together we can solve problems which we all face.

The writing is relaxed and easy to read, the story is well paced and doesn’t dawdle; keeping you drawn through the book. The characters are likeable, if a little thin in places, but all in all they are well formed.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Something Valuable

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

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

Today’s prompt…

Your most valuable possession goes missing. You begin to chase the thief.

It takes you to parts of your home town you’ve never been before.

Carry on the story.

At some point, someone ends up dressed like a rabbit.

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Book Extract: Meet Me in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May

A big welcome back to Nicola May. She is here with the blog tour for her latest novel, Meet Me in Cockleberry Bay. 

Here’s a little about the book:

The cast of the runaway bestseller, The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay, are back – including Rosa, Josh, Mary, Jacob, Sheila, new mum Titch and, last but by no means least, Hot, the adorable dachshund.

Newly wed, and with her inherited corner shop successfully up and running, Rosa Smith seems to have all that anyone could wish for. But the course of true love never did run smooth and Rosa’s suspicions that her husband is having an affair have dire consequences.

Reaching rock bottom before she can climb back up to the top, fragile Rosa is forced to face her fears, addiction and jealousy head on.

With a selection of meddling locals still at large, a mystery fire and Titch’s frantic search for the real father of her sick baby, the second book in this enchanting series will take you on a further unpredictable journey of self-discovery.

 

Nicola has shared an extract with us today. 

 

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

PROLOGUE

‘Oh Titch, why didn’t you just ring for an ambulance?’

‘I did, but they’re always so slow getting down to the Bay and I knew you’d know what to do. I’m sorry, Rose. Oooh . . .’

Hot Dog, Rosa Smith’s excitable mini-dachshund, was now running around the Corner Shop making whining noises similar to the ones coming from the young girl in labour.

Flustered, Rosa snapped at him, ‘Hot, will you just stop it?’ She reached for her friend’s
hand and said more gently, ‘Come on, we need to get you upstairs.’

‘No! No, I can’t move.’ Titch was bent over, clutching at the counter. ‘Oh no – I think I’m ready to push!’

‘Shit! OK, OK, don’t panic.’ Rosa hurriedly turned the Corner Shop sign to Closed, dragged the biggest, comfiest dog bed off a shelf and carefully eased her friend to the floor. She then darted into the downstairs kitchen and grabbed a whole handful of clean tea-towels from the drawer.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Research

Today, I wanted to focus on research.

When looking at the writing process, nothing scares me as much as the research part.

How much planning and research is enough? At what point can you get too buried underneath all of the information?

The most daunting question of all… where do I begin?

I wanted to try the following exercise.

Make a list of the first five celebrities or historical figures that come into your head. Then pick one.

Using google, spend thirty minutes finding out five facts about this celebrity or historical figure.

Once you’ve done that, write a conversation between yourself and this person using the information you’ve found out.

Has this exercise sparked a bigger idea? What else do you feel you’d need to know before you begin to write a bigger story?

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Penguin, August 2013

July is here and I hope we will see more of this lovely weather.

Is anyone else completely obsessed with the TV adaptation of Big Little Lies? I am.

As we’ve discussed Big Little Lies in a previous book club, this month, I’ve picked another book by Liane, The Husband’s Secret.

A little about the book….

Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.

Curious, she opens it – and time stops.

John-Paul’s letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

Cecilia wants to do the right thing, but right for who?

If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband’s secret, she will hurt those she loves most . . .

To view The Husband’s Secret on Amazon UK, click here. 

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Book Extract: A Random Act of Kindness by Sophie Jenkins

Sophie Jenkins joins me today with the blog tour of her latest novel, A Random Act of Kindness. Even the title makes me smile. Here’s a little about the novel. 

It only takes a moment, to change a life for ever…

Fern is too busy making sure other people feel good about themselves to give much thought to her own happiness. But somehow, without her noticing, life has run away from her.

Suddenly, Fern realises her vintage clothes business is struggling, and the casual relationship she’d always thought she was happy in doesn’t look so appealing.

But sometimes, karma really does come through. And when Fern goes out of her way to help 85-year-old Dinah, little does she realise their new friendship will change her life.

Dinah may have troubles in her past, but she’s lived and loved to the full. Can Dinah show Fern that even the smallest acts of kindness can make the world a better place?

 

To celebrate the book’s release, Sophie and Avon have shared an extract today. Enjoy.

 

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

She always thought that I’d go first. We both did. All her friends are widows and some of them had a new lease of life after their loss. I’m not saying she was looking forward to her widowhood, but she was pragmatic about it. She liked to make the best of things.

The husbands went in various different ways in their own time: heart attack, cancer, mobility scooter accident. Stan broke his hip on a golf course after Christmas. He’d tripped over the rake in the bunker, stayed there overnight and got hypothermia while his wife, Betty, thought he was in bed with her all the time. She’d been at watercolour classes, painting flowers. She’d undressed in the bathroom, tiptoed into bed, woke up the next morning, made him a cup of tea and saw he wasn’t there, after all. Surprise of her life, she said, to see his side of the bed empty.

Enid thought it was the way he’d have wanted to go, on a golf course. She was wrong about that. I know Stan. Stan wouldn’t have chosen to die in a bunker, out of all the ways to go.

On a green, maybe. Stan was competitive.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room – Autobiographical

Writing about yourself.

Set a timer for five minutes.

Write down as many memories from your own life that come to mind within the time.

From that list, pick the one that stands out the most and make as many notes about it, trying to remember as much as you can from how you felt, the smells, who was there. What happened and how it ended.

Once you’ve done that, use these notes to write a chapter as though you were writing your autobiography.

Give the chapter a title.

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Book Review: Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp

Bring Me Sunshine is the new novel from author, Laura Kemp and I am very pleased to be a part of the blog tour today. 

Charlotte Bold is nothing like her name – she is shy and timid and just wants a quiet life. When her job doing the traffic news on the radio in London is relocated to Sunshine FM in Mumbles, she jumps at the chance for a new start in Wales.

But when she arrives she discovers that she’s not there to do the travel news – she’s there to front the graveyard evening show. And she’s not sure she can do it.

Thrust into the limelight, she must find her voice and a way to cope. And soon she realises that she’s not the only person who finds life hard – out there her listeners are lonely too. And her show is the one keeping them going.

 

First off, I want to say that it’s always lovely when I get to welcome another Laura to Novel Kicks.

Words can not describe how much I love the cover of this book. It’s so pretty.

There is such an ease to this book that I immediately got pulled in. I had not read any of Laura’s previous novels but I am wondering where the hell I have been. This will soon be rectified.

The story was told from the point of view of three people and I found this an interesting way to get to know these well-developed characters.

Charlie has just moved to Mumbles to begin a new job. She is terrified to learn that it will be an on air role at Sunshine FM .

Delme, Del to his friends, at the beginning of the novel is working as the health and safety officer at the station.

Tina is the station’s office manager who has a few secrets of her own.

I fell in love with Charlie straight away. She isn’t just black and white. She is fighting battles relating to her past, her confidence and the lack of belief in herself – something I think we can all empathise with on some level. I wanted to jump in and just give her a hug. She felt like a friend.

I felt the same about Del. He is this loveable chap who seems sure of who he is but like Tina, not everything is as it seems.

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Book Review: Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara

A big lovely hello to Ali McNamara and the blog tour for her latest novel, Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay. 

 

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…

******

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay focuses on Amelia. She’s a single mother who is trying to do the best for her young son, Charlie.

When she is told that she’s the last descendant of the Chesterford family and has inherited a castle, she doesn’t believe it at first. With a little convincing, she and Charlie arrive in Northumberland where most people are very friendly.

As she begins to make changes, strange things begin to happen, secrets are revealed and rumours about the castle being haunted may not be lies after all.

Ali McNamara is one of those authors for me. Whenever a new book of hers gets released, I read. Simple.

I pretty much devoured this book over a day. The story, the characters, the setting. It was all great; even grumpy Arthur.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Keeping a Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: The House of Secrets by Terry Lynn Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

This book was previously published as WEEPING IN THE WINGS. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NK Chats To: Elizabeth Crocket

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

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

 

Which authors have inspired you? 

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

 

What are you currently working on? 

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

 

What song best describes you? 

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NK Chats To… Jon Rance (Plus Book Review)

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

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

 

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

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

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for Good Grief?

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

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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

 

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

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