Book Review: The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Haywood

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’

Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.

Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.

As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.

An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

*****

Emma had never been close to her mother.

After her mother’s death however, she finds something that may not only explain why her mother was always a little distant but also a secret that will change Emma’s life forever.

I found the premise of this novel immediately intriguing. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Told from the point of view of Betty, her Daughter, Margaret and Granddaughter, Emma, it gives the reader a real insight into three generations of women – their differences and parallels. The story also occasionally focuses on Emma’s stepfather, Jack and his input and influence over the women.

I also liked how the painting that featured in the novel was interpreted in many different ways. This really added an extra dimension to the story.

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Book Review: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

*****

It’s 1903. Fishermen find a boat containing an unconscious, badly beaten woman and a young girl. They are both taken to All Hallows, an asylum on Dartmoor.

As the woman remains in a coma, the young girl, Harriet is taken to an attic room and put into the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school for boys. Lewis is sent there after the death of his mother. He feels alone and isolated.

He then meets his new roommate, Isak. Their room is in the attic, located in the old part of the building.

The boys begin to learn more about each other and about the school’s past as an asylum.

It soon becomes clear that the past is restless and that many ghosts still linger.

From the moment I read the premise for this book, I knew it was going to be a book I would find intriguing.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Surprise Party

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

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

Today’s prompt: Surprise Party.

Your character has been told to be at a restaurant at a certain time. As it’s their birthday, they assume it’s a surprise party. Full of excitement, they make their way to the venue.

When they arrive, there is a surprise but not the one they were expecting.

Sitting around the table are five people. They are your character’s five major relationships. None of these ended well.

Start the conversation with ‘Sit down. We need to talk.’ 

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NK Chats To… Evie Alexander

Hi Evie, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, Highland Games and what inspired it? Was it always going to be part of a two book series?

Highland Games is a steamy romantic comedy set in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s about a fiery heroine who moves up from London to live in her great-uncle’s derelict cabin, and the Scottie hottie who wants her out.

I have a real life friend called Zoe who lives in a one room cabin she built herself and this was part of the inspiration for Highland Games. But I wanted to write what might happen if someone moved their life but were totally unprepared for what they found. It was never going to be part of a series. I wrote it as a standalone, however I accidentally wrote two hundred thousand words so it had to be turned into two books; Highland Games and Hollywood Games.

Then I realised I had two more stories to tell that happened in the same location and timeline as Hollywood Games, so I wrote two more books; Kissing Games and Musical Games to complete the Kinloch series.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

I get up between half five and half six, go downstairs and immediately start writing. I have a break when the rest of the family get up and then I go back to write for a couple more hours before I have breakfast around mid morning. There are always other tasks to do, so I might not get back to my desk to write until later in the day or the evening. If it’s a good day then I probably spend four to six hours writing and try to aim for two thousand words minimum a day.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

Not having a clear plan. I pantsed the first draft of Highland Games and so it took two years to sort out into two books. I planned my third book, Kissing Games, and it only took a few weeks to write, and only needed a copy edit and proof when it was done.

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

I’m rubbish at thinking of playlists because I have to have complete silence when I write!!! If anyone has an idea for a playlist for Highland Games then please let me know!

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

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October’s Recent and Upcoming Releases

There are some great books that have been released or due to be released this month.

Here are five books I am particularly looking forward to reading or like the look of. Let me know in the comments what new releases you may read or have been enjoying.

 

Better off Dead is the latest Jack Reacher novel. Written by Lee Child and Andrew Child, it’s due to be released on 26th October by Bantam Press.

In this latest instalment, Reacher isn’t a man to back down from a problem.

On an Arizona road, a jeep has crashed.

Minutes after the crash, Reacher and Army veteran turned FBI agent, Michaela are heading to a nearby town in search of someone. To do this, Reacher is going to have to achieve the impossible.

 

Another release from Bantam Press is The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella.

I am so pleased that Sophie has a new book release. I have been so excited to read this one. Released on 14th October, this focuses on Effie.

Her parents are divorced and are selling the family home.

Her Dad and his new girlfriend are holding a house-cooling party prior to the sale and Effie is quite ceremoniously not invited.

Fine, she’s OK with that… until she remembers that there are things from that house she’ll have to go back for.

It’s a simple plan. Creep in during the party, get what she came for and leave. What could go wrong?

Well, an ex-boyfriend and finding out out family secrets for starters.

 

The Girl She Was Before is the upcoming release by Jess Kitching and is due to be released by Kingsley Publishing on 31st October.

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Book Review: The Best Christmas Ever by Karen King

Lexi Forde adores Christmas. She’s especially looking forward to it this year as it’s the first Christmas with her boyfriend Ben and her older brother is visiting from Canada with his family.

They’ll all be spending Christmas at her parents’ house in Devon.

But when Lexi surprises Ben at work, she sees him kissing someone else and discovers he’s been having an affair. Devastated, she travels to Devon alone.

She’s determined not to let her break-up spoil her family Christmas. But when she arrives, Lexi discovers the council won’t allow the Christmas tree on the green to be decorated this year; it’s too dangerous and has to come down. Lexi is desperate to save their favourite family tradition and make this Christmas extra special.

Can she save the tree and mend her broken heart in time for Christmas?

*****

The first Christmas book I read this year is a…cracker! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

This is a multi-generational story set in a charming village in Devon.

Lexi is back home for the holidays but not with whom she thought was a wonderful boyfriend in tow.

With a Christmas-mad family (including a Grandma who she’s worried will get arrested at any moment), a new hunky man on the block looking for a new start whilst trying to keep a nutty but sweet pooch on the leash (I’ll stop), this was a book I found very difficult to put down.

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Book Review: A Christmas Wish on a Carousel by Lottie Cardew

Snuggle up under your favourite blanket and escape to the beautiful village of Pebblestow this winter, for one of the most heartwarming stories of the season…

When Cara Mia Shaw makes a desperate wish one night, while riding on a carousel at a Christmas market, little does she know her small, but safe world is about to spin off its axis.

Befriending a fascinating returnee to the village, an elderly woman called Perdita with a jaunty pink beret and the wisdom of a life well lived, might set Cara on a different, albeit harder, course, if she’s brave enough to listen. Art was always her passion, after all, even if fate seemed to have other ideas.

And then there’s the new man in her life, who her friends think is perfect for her because they set her up with decent, reliable Greg in the first place. Cara’s been hurt enough times to know the difference between a good man and a feckless one. Until Wilfred comes along – moody, sarcastic, and scattered – just to complicate matters and meddle with Cara’s resolve, to the horror of almost everyone around her. But is either man ultimately meant for her, anyway? And will she self-sabotage as usual, or gamble everything this time, including her heart?

It might take the highs and lows of friendship, the risk of a forbidden romance, and a Pomeranian called Loki – not to mention some much-needed Christmas magic – before Cara finally realises the wish she made that night on the carousel might just be about to come true.

 

*****

Cara makes a wish on a carousel at a local Christmas market. Soon after, her quiet life turns upside down.

Her friends set her up with Greg, who is a decent, reliable man. She also meets Wilf, the not so dependable brother of her ex-employer. Is one of them the one?

She also meets Perdita, an elderly resident who has come back to the village. Could she send Cara on a different course?

As I have said many times on this blog, one of the things I love most about this time of year is the arrival of novels with Christmas/festive settings. This one was wonderful, drew me in and was magical.

Cara is a bit of a lost soul, at least, that’s my impression. She’s also stuck and scared. I also got the same impression about Wilf and of course, the two connect. There is a mystery surrounding Wilf and I found it interesting to see how they both developed through the novel. I really wanted them to find happiness, even if it wasn’t with each other.

Perdita was also intriguing. I couldn’t quite work out how she fitted into the story but I wanted to know more about her. She’s fabulous.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town.

Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.

After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone . . .

*****

Cats and Books. This novel had me before I even got to the first page.

There is something whimsical about the front cover that immediately pulled me in.

This book is only about 224 pages so it isn’t a long read but it’s an interesting, sweet, compelling story.

Rintaro is a guarded character at the beginning as he is grieving the loss of his beloved Grandfather and is facing a complete life change as a result. He is due to move and has to put his Grandfather’s bookshop up for sale. I think he’s someone a lot of people will find relatable and easy to empathise with.

Instead of going to school, Rintaro decides to work in the bookshop. One of his classmates, Sayo refuses to give up on him and goes to the shop every day to try and persuade him to come to school.

Sayo is a complete contrast to the restrained Rintaro and I found their dynamic interesting – what they bought out in each other.

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Events: The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021

The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival for 2021 has begun.

The festival, held at various venues around the city started today (8th October) and continues until 17th October 2021.

Participants and attendees are there to celebrate everything about books and writing. Those taking part include Writers, Poets, Actors, Politicians, Comedians and Musicians.

There are many things going on including workshops, interviews, panels and family events; some are free, others cost a fee but there is something for everyone.

People taking part include Elif Shafak, Maggie O’ Farrell, Ann Morgan, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Sebastian Faulks, Ben Miller, Caroline O’ Donoghue, Clare Balding, Hayley Mills, Jonathan Franzen, Cressida Cowell, Mark Billingham, Josh Widdicombe, Richard Osman, Lisa Jewell, Jed Mercurio, Suzie Dent, Paula Hawkins, Lionel Shriver, Marian Keyes, Dawn French, Bernardine Evaristo, Robert Webb and Will Young.

Workshops over the festival include ‘Writing Scary Stories’ with Jennifer Killick, Young Journalists with the Week Junior, How To Make Awesome Comics with Neill Cameron and Surviving and Thriving as a Young Writer.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Superhero Confession

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

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

Today’s prompt: Superhero confession

Write from the point of view of someone who has to tell a loved one that they have not only superpowers but a nemesis.

The person/people your character loves are in danger.

First line: ‘what are you doing here? It’s late.’

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Book Review: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.

But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.

Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

*****

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is the third book in the Riverside Lane series.

Belle Clarke sees the village of Cranbridge as her home. She wants to stay there forever, working at her Uncle’s inn, The Black Swan.

When the inn is threatened by closure, Belle may have to leave. Cue Pete Kennedy, her oldest friend.

He buys the inn and has plans but these are the opposite of Belle’s vision.

Can Pete and Belle put aside their differences and save not only the inn but help the village too.

It was so lovely to be back in Cranbridge. It was really like being back with old friends. The descriptions and setting of this village sounds so stunning, especially as it’s set during Autumn and Christmas (I am feeling so festive now.)

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September 2021 Favourites

Summer is lovely (not that we got much of it,) but there is something I love about the autumn, about how the colour of the leaves change, having a reason to get the warm jumpers out and sitting listening to the rain whilst snuggled up inside.

September was, for me, a little bit of a blur. Having not had a great month in terms of my mental health, finding things that occupied my mind became very important.

So, I have some favourites to share with you.

My first favourite is No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. OK, this isn’t technically a ‘new’ favourite but it’s a book I’ve heavily been consulting during the past month as I begin to prepare for National Novel Writing Month 2021 which is in 26 days. Eeek!

This book, in my opinion, should be in everyone’s list when getting organised for NaNoWriMo. From developing characters to giving me a week by week guide through the weeks of November, this book won’t leave my side. Anyone else taking part this year? My user name is Laura Parish if anyone wants to be buddies.

It was really hard to pick a favourite book from the month of September. The ones I have read were all so good.

Jane’s Away by Clare Hawken made it to the top spot. It was such an interesting, compelling and unique take on the spouse leaving and Roger goes through quite a transformation. It’s a great novel.
Here’s the blurb and you can read my full review here.

Roger Kurmudge is rather smug about his affluent life and happy marriage.

It’s just as well his wife, Jane, is totally in the dark about what he got up to in the past. But on his retirement day, Jane disappears. Roger’s about to panic. Will he have to sell some shares or – heaven forbid! – the house in Bordeaux to pay a ransom demand? Worse – has Jane discovered his guilty secret?

Then Jane’s emails start arriving. Take the dog to the vet. Look after grandson Alfie for the day. Do the washing, shopping and cooking. Host Christmas for the family. Roger doesn’t know why Jane’s gone but he’s sure he can manage her ‘women’s work’ without any trouble. Although it’s harder than it looks.

As the weeks go by and Jane stays away, Roger is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his life and himself. But even if Roger can change for the better, will Jane ever come back? Or has she, too, been keeping secrets of her own?

My TV favourite for last month is a show called Miracle Workers, based on a book by Simon Rich.

I came across a clip of this show when I’d fallen down one of my many You Tube rabbit holes and immediately wanted to watch more. For anyone who has watched it, it was the clip from series three, in the bar, with one of the characters singing.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling

Hello October. 

October is not only my birthday month, it is also the build up to Halloween and, in my opinion, the real beginning of Autumn.

This month, I wanted to pick a set of books that have been so important to me. So, our book club is reading… Harry Potter.

I think these books are so perfect for the spooky month with it being about witches and wizards and magic and all.

I am going to be focusing on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as this is my favourite. You can read that with me or you can pick whatever Harry Potter book is your favourite. I’m so excited to find out which book is the most popular.

As usual, I have put a question in the comments below to kick off the conversation. Anyone can join our book club, whether you’ve read the books or are yet to read them.

I look forward to discussing this book series with you.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: 

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

 

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets: 

Harry Potter’s summer has included the worst birthday ever, doomy warnings from a house-elf called Dobby, and rescue from the Dursleys by his friend Ron Weasley in a magical flying car! Back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year, Harry hears strange whispers echo through empty corridors – and then the attacks start. Students are found as though turned to stone… Dobby’s sinister predictions seem to be coming true.

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: 

When the Knight Bus crashes through the darkness and screeches to a halt in front of him, it’s the start of another far from ordinary year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Sirius Black, escaped mass-murderer and follower of Lord Voldemort, is on the run – and they say he is coming after Harry. In his first ever Divination class, Professor Trelawney sees an omen of death in Harry’s tea leaves… But perhaps most terrifying of all are the Dementors patrolling the school grounds, with their soul-sucking kiss…

 

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire: 

The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter – but that doesn’t stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe’en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through – alive!

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Book Review: The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain

When the manuscript of a debut crime novel arrives at a Parisian publishing house, everyone in the readers’ room is convinced it’s something special. And the committee for France’s highest literary honour, the Prix Goncourt, agrees.

But when the shortlist is announced, there’s a problem for editor Violaine Lepage: she has no idea of the author’s identity. As the police begin to investigate a series of murders strangely reminiscent of those recounted in the book, Violaine is not the only one looking for answers. And, suffering memory blanks following an aeroplane accident, she’s beginning to wonder what role she might play in the story …

*****

A manuscript for a debut crime novel arrives on Violaine Lepage’s desk and everyone agrees that it’s going to be huge. The only problem is, no-one knows who the author is.

This becomes a bigger issue when it’s shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary honour.

Also, people start to die in similar circumstances to the novel, the Police come calling and Violaine wonders what part she has to play in everything.

I have become such a fan of Antoine Laurain’s novels and so I was excited to read this one and I was immediately intrigued by the premise.

This book is a mystery. Who is this writer and who is the person murdering people? I got drawn in straightaway, wanting to know who, where and why.

Set at a Publishers in France,  I wanted to be a part of the Readers’ Room team. I could also see myself in the setting. How Antoine Laurain describes the city and Violaine’s workplace and home – it’s all so vivid and beautifully written. I could picture this world through the eyes of these interesting, complicated and relatable characters.

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Book Review: The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Ambition will fuel him.

Competition will drive him.

But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuvre his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – ; every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favour or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

*****

Snow Lands on Top!

Coriolanus Snow is 18 and a student in the Capitol, ten years after the end of the war. With the effects of the war still fresh in the mind of those both Capitol and Districts, the 10th Hunger Games is about to begin. Snow is one of 24 students chosen to be in the first batch of mentors for the incoming tributes.

When he is assigned the girl tribute from District 12, he sees this as the biggest humiliation. Once the games begin however, it becomes a battle for survival both in and out of the arena.

From the time I first read The Hunger Games books and saw the films, I found myself wondering about President Snow and how his story began so when I found out that The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes was going to be from Snow’s perspective, I was excited. Surely he was not born with that much hatred and contempt for the districts?

When we meet Coriolanus, the Snow family are one tax bill away from losing their home. They are as far away from the President’s mansion and riches as they could possibly be. His Grandmother is frail, his Parents dead and his Cousin, Tigris does all she can. Their biggest fear is that someone finds out about their situation and the Snows become a laughing stock. No, they need to keep their secrets.

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Book Extract: The Landlord of Hummingbird House by Jane Harvey

I’m pleased to be welcoming Jane Harvey to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her latest, novel, The Landlord of Hummingbird House.

When April moves into Hummingbird House, she is intrigued by her mysterious landlord, Dai.

With a bruised heart and a distinct lack of furniture, she spends the summer getting to know the other occupants. As she smartens up her home and makes peace with her recent past, she befriends Paul, a solitary ex-chef, and Betty, an elderly lady who lives in the basement flat.

But Hummingbird House holds many secrets, and the relationships of the tenants are not as straightforward as they seem. April learns some shocking truths one eventful night, and realises that victims and villains can look the same.

The Landlord of Hummingbird House is a contemporary novel exploring unlikely friendships, unexpected love interests, and family relationships. Here, everyone is in need of a second chance – and appearances can be deceptive.

 

Jane has kindly shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

April (a 32-year-old Primary School teacher) has had to move to a new home following the break-up of her long-term relationship. Immediately before this scene, April and her sister are working away to improve her new rental home. As she works, April starts to dwell on how she renovated her last home, which leads to reflections on the end of the relationship. She has just described how she and Tom seemed to be drifting further apart, and how he was working long hours, following a promotion.

 

Eventually, he invited her to a black-tie do, for his work. April knew the date off by heart for weeks, building this one evening into something special, something that would help to salvage things. Take them back to how they were. They would have a wonderful time. They would laugh and eat and drink. Maybe dance.

She had no idea what to wear at first, and ended up having to get a new dress, and buying sparkly sandals when she couldn’t find heels that she could walk in. She had always had a problem with shoes. They both dressed up: physically pressed and booted; emotionally crumpled and tired. It was the first time they’d been out together in months.

When they were seated, April struggled to make conversation with his colleagues and acquaintances – her work stories revolved around little Jamie’s lost trousers after P.E rather than how the office intern had nearly lost them half a million. She felt like someone’s little sister. Like she’d been asked along by mistake, or out of pity, with her costume jewellery and too-tight Spanx.

It struck her that there was a time when they would have been accomplices at these events – saving each other from dire conversations with dribbling, drunken Non-Executive Directors, or giggling behind menus, thick as thieves. But Tom was off, working the room, and chatting amiably to everyone. It was expected, he said. He had to show his face.

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A Moment With… D.S. Lang

It’s lovely to be welcoming DS Lang to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, A Lethal Arrogance, which is book 3 in the Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series.

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

 

*****

Today, D.S. Lang tells us about the inspiration and research behind her book series. Over to you, D.S. Lang. 

My Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series takes place shortly after the Great War (World War I). Bella, the main character, was a United States Army Signal Corps operator in France during the conflict. Originally, I planned for Bella to be a nurse. While doing research, I discovered that American nurses needed to be at least twenty-five years old. Since I wanted her to be younger when she volunteered, I searched for other roles available to young women and found that they were accepted into the Signal Corps.

The U.S. entered the war in April 1917. By the end of the year, General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, decided that women were needed to replace male operators, freeing those men for combat duty. About 10,000 ladies applied, and some 200 were chosen. The main requirement was fluency in both English and French. The training, primarily learning to operate complicated switchboards, took place before they sailed for France. The women proved to be highly competent, connecting six calls in the time it took male operators to handle one.

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Book Review: Jane’s Away by Clare Hawken

Roger Kurmudge is rather smug about his affluent life and happy marriage.

It’s just as well his wife, Jane, is totally in the dark about what he got up to in the past. But on his retirement day, Jane disappears. Roger’s about to panic. Will he have to sell some shares or – heaven forbid! – the house in Bordeaux to pay a ransom demand? Worse – has Jane discovered his guilty secret?

Then Jane’s emails start arriving. Take the dog to the vet. Look after grandson Alfie for the day. Do the washing, shopping and cooking. Host Christmas for the family. Roger doesn’t know why Jane’s gone but he’s sure he can manage her ‘women’s work’ without any trouble. Although it’s harder than it looks.

As the weeks go by and Jane stays away, Roger is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his life and himself. But even if Roger can change for the better, will Jane ever come back? Or has she, too, been keeping secrets of her own?

 

*****

Roger is quite pleased with his perfect life. He’s about to retire from a successful business, he has a nice home in Guildford and he has a beautiful and dutiful wife. He has good reason to be smug right? Especially as he’s managed to keep his secret all these years.

When Jane disappears on the day of his retirement and e-mails from her begin to appear, Roger must quickly learn to adapt but Jane’s job of running the house, walking the dog and looking after their grandson should be easy – or so he thinks.

Roger or ‘Woger’ at the start of this story is one of the most frustrating fictional characters I have ever met. He has this attitude that his family are happy purely based on the fact that he’s always provided for them financially and because of this, he feels that he is well liked and respected, both in his personal and professional life. I really wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Haha.

However, as the book progressed, I loved seeing how Roger adapted and began to realise what he had and what he’d taken for granted. There is a wonderful life lesson with this novel and it is tackled well.

The supporting characters are all well rounded and real. Alfie especially was adorable and I really liked Jamie.

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Book Review: The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

London, 1885

Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe–a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband–Harold Radcliffe–of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.

*****

London 1885.

Amelie is a hopeless romantic. Detective Michael Baker has vowed never to marry.

When the body of a woman is pulled from the Thames, Michael and Amelie’s paths cross but can romance bloom in the middle of a murder investigation?

Romance and mystery… perfect!

Amelie is a lovely character with the matchmaking interest of Emma Woodhouse, the sweetness of Jane Bennett and the sass of Lizzie Bennett and I loved her. She’s a strong character but at the same time, and like a lot of us, she wants to fall in love and this makes her a little naive when it comes to her own love life. Love can blind you.

Michael is a wonderfully flawed hero. He’s dealing with grief and loss and without realising it, it’s made him lonely and I believe this makes him very relatable. He certainly doesn’t count on meeting Amelie.

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Events: The Desiblitz Literature Festival

Nikesh Shukla

The UK’s leading British South Asian Literary Festival, organised by DESIblitz.com is due to begin on Saturday.

Running from 18th September until 1st October 2021, the Desiblitz Literature Festival aims to champion the work of the UK’s South Asian literary stars as well as raise awareness of the lack of diversity in the UK publishing industry.

Although the festival is designed to encourage young and aspiring British Asian writers, it’s open to all.

Based in Birmingham, the festival will be running a mix of in-person and digital events across the next couple of weeks. Live events will be taking place at The Rep Centre and B Music (formally Symphony Hall,) in the city centre.

As well as workshops, panel events and poetry readings, the festival will showcase 18 leading writers and thinkers of South Asian decent.

People appearing at the event include Imtiaz Dharker, Saima Mir, Serena Patel and Sarfraz Manzoor amongst others.

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NK Chats To… Anne Montgomery

Hello Anne, welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me about your novel, The Castle and what inspired it? 

Why write a novel about rape? For me the reason was personal. While attending college, I was sexually assaulted. I became a statistic. Today, one out of every six women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Like 80% of those victims, I never went to the police. Why? I believed they would have blamed me. I was on a date with a sweet-faced farm boy who played for my university’s football team. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly followed him into his dorm room. What did I expect would happen? So, I said nothing.

Years later, I became a teacher at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, a position I held for 20 years.  It was during this time I came to understand another sad statistic: Four out of five rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. I kept meeting young girls who’d been sexually assaulted, always by a family member or friend. Sadly, many of these teens were ostracized by their loved ones when they came forward, told they were lying, or that the assault was their fault.

This prompted me to investigate the behavior and psychology of rapists, the profile of a victim, and the ways sexual assault survivors can heal. The end result was the story of Maggie, a national park ranger who works at Montezuma Castle in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie is recovering from the gang rape she suffered in the Coast Guard. We follow her through her depression, anger, and ultimate healing.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? 

Until I retired from teaching, I only wrote during school breaks, so most of my books were produced during the summer. Now, I generally get some work done every morning and sometimes in the late afternoon, depending on what else I have going on.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? 

I find the writing is the easy part. I like to tell stories, perhaps a hangover from my previous life as a reporter. The real challenges come when an author tries to convince others—agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, readers—to like their books.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

I find Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt rather appealing. Not only is he pretty hot, but he’s a scuba diver. I am as well. I would love to tag along on some of his underwater adventures.

 

What elements make up a good story? 

The setting is especially important. I consider locale as another character. Most of my stories, for example, take place in Arizona in and around the Sonoran Desert, a magical area filled with rugged, wild terrain and plants and animals that live nowhere else. The land is both magnificently beautiful and horribly treacherous, if one is not careful. Of course, a good story rides on its characters, who must be engaging, interesting, and relatable.

 

Which authors do you admire? 

I don’t have any favorite authors. I read stories that look interesting, whether the author is a well-known for best-sellers or a first-time Indie author.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Favorite word? I don’t know. I like lots of words, but mostly ones that sound funny when you say them, like absorb and nudibranch. (The latter are strange Seussical-like creatures who live in the sea. As I mentioned, I’m a scuba diver.)

 

Any other advice for aspiring writers? 

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Book Review: Codename Firefly by C. J. Daugherty

Gray Langtry is on the run. As the only child of the British Prime Minister, Gray’s life has been in turmoil ever since her mother was chosen to lead the country.

Both she and her mother are targets of a Russian assassination plot. And what’s worse, members of her mother’s own cabinet are involved. A team of bodyguards never leaves her side. The press attention is relentless. And then there are the death threats.

Now, after an attempt on Gray’s life, she has been moved to an elite boarding school in the British countryside. Shielded by high walls and locked gates, Gray finally feels safe, but the plotters are still hunting, and soon they will find her.

Gray’s personal bodyguard, Julia, and the school’s young headmistress are determined to protect her. They both know how dangerous things are. The assassins searching for Gray are highly trained. And when they arrive they will aim to kill. Dylan, a mysterious American student, seems to know more than he should – but he’s always there when Gray needs him. Can she trust him? Can she trust anyone?

As winter closes in and darkness falls, Gray will have to think fast.

The hunters are coming.

 

*****

After an attempt on her life, the UK Prime Minister’s daughter, Gray has been sent to a special boarding school with elevated security. It’s somewhere she should be safe. However, her attackers are not finished with her and are back to finish what they started.

As a guy in his (cough) forties, I am not the target audience for this novel. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t find it enjoyable. This is the sequel to Number 10 (which I hadn’t read prior to starting Codename Firefly) but it’s not a problem, this can be read first or as a standalone. Enough is explained so that you can keep up with what has happened to Gray.

Gray herself was a little bit of a mystery to me but I can see her being relatable in many ways. Gray is a normal kid, trying to be as normal as she can despite her circumstances.

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NK Chats To: Mick Arnold

A lovely big welcome to Mick Arnold who is here with the blog tour for the second novel in the Broken Wings series. Hi Mick. It’s brilliant to have you back on Novel Kicks. In Wild Blue Yonder, we are back with the girls at the Air Transport Auxiliary. What can we expect from book two? 

Many thanks for having me back Laura. You must be a glutton for punishment!

Well, it’s about six months on from the events in ‘A Wing and a Prayer’ and as usual, fate isn’t being kind to some of the girls.

Exactly when their personal relationships seem to be trotting along nicely, an accusation of theft is laid at their door and though not a taxing mystery, it’s still an unwelcome distraction. There are bombing attacks to withstand from the Luftwaffe, POW husbands and sons to worry about, clothing is still going missing, and one of the girls is still suffering the after effects of being stabbed in books 1, ‘A Wing and a Prayer’. So, an awful lot going on for them to deal with.

 

How has your writing process changed between writing the first and second novel in the series?

Not a lot really. As I didn’t know if I’d be able to get a contract for the first one, I only had the barest of idea about a sequel, so when I was asked for it and after I’d recovered from the minor panic attack, I set to. I’m not a planner, so the process was the same as for the first book. Type away and see what comes to mind. Luckily, something did!

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

So long as I don’t allow myself to get too distracted – damn you YouTube! – I can write a 100K story in about 3 – 4 months. As I tend to edit each chapter as I go along, my first drafts are really somewhere between 2nd and 3rd’s in reality.

 

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

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Book Review: Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh

It’s always a good time for a road trip…

When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life in sheltered accommodation.

Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver five-a side football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travelers set out on their great adventure.

From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed. 

And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change… 

*****

When 82 year old Lil decides that she needs a holiday, she takes her daughter Cassie and her best friend Maggie along for the ride. Along with a variety of different people, they embark on a mini bus tour of Europe and soon discover that it’s never too late to live and love.

This book, to begin with, was a bit of a slow burner. As there are a few people going on the holiday, it meant that quite a few characters needed to be introduced early on. However, once they actually got going on the holiday, I couldn’t put the book down.

Told mainly from the point of view of Lil and Cassie, it covers their holiday across France, Belgium and Amsterdam with many hilarious, poignant and wonderful moments along the way.

It was interesting to see how all the different personalities interacted, especially as they were all travelling in quite close proximity and were a variety of ages.

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Book Review: 28 Days by Sue Parritt

Melbourne, February 2100. Emma Cartwright has 28 days left to find work, otherwise she must report to the Productive Citizens Bureau and accept any vacancy, regardless of location, pay or conditions.

Her situation becomes even more grave when the Employment Positions Portal is disabled and the government refuses to extend her unemployment period. At 70, Emma could opt for voluntary euthanasia, but she has her student son Jack to support.

After a chance meeting with the eccentric Cal Ritchie, founder of the clandestine group Citizens’ Voice and supporter of those fleeing repressive laws to live in bush camps, Emma is determined to escape her life of compliance.

When her son Jack is suddenly arrested, Emma finds herself running out of time and options, and has to take drastic measures. But can she save her son?

*****

28 Days focuses on Emma and the looming end of her government approved unemployment period. Set in the opening days of the 22nd century, she lives in an Australia which has been ravaged by climate change and rising sea levels. This has put huge pressure on population and resources.

As such, everyone needs to be a productive citizen and maintain productive employment. If you’re unable to find employment after a year, you’re allocated a job and for 70 year old Emma, that period ends in 28 days. With an 19 year old son to think about, Emma is getting desperate.

Emma is a well rounded character who is very relatable. She reminded me of my own mother in the fact that she is stoic, resourceful and underestimated. It’s nice to read a novel centred around an active older person rather than a teenager which is something I find you often get in this genre. Emma has life experience that brings something very interesting to her character and predicament.

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Book Review: Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

How well do you know the woman next door?

When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.

Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.

Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?

*****

I love this kind of psychological thriller. One that gets under your skin.

Stina and Jack are soon to be parents and are excited to be escaping the trappings of the city for the rural village of Avoncote. They soon become friends with their elderly neighbour, Mrs Barley.

Then Stina sees a mysterious man in their neighbours garden, she begins to hear noises at night and finds out that other people in the village don’t trust Mrs Barley. Is their new friend what she seems?

From the beginning of this book, you’re drawn into something sinister and this feeling bubbles throughout the novel. The suspense is built up so well that I couldn’t really get a grip on how the story was going to play out.

The characters are well developed and I did find Mrs Barley unsettling. I also didn’t quite know what to make of Jack. Anne Wynn Clark does a good job at driving doubt into the reader, making them feel unsure of all the characters.

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Book Review: The Ticklemore Tavern by Liz Davis

Violet makes her own gin.

Logan Cassidy sells it in his pub, The Ticklemore Tavern.

It should have been a match made in heaven, especially since the pair of them fancy the socks off each other, and they are both young, free and single.

Except…

Logan’s mum, Marie, doesn’t think Violet is good enough for her son. No woman is, or ever will be.

And when she becomes ill, Logan is torn between looking after his mum or following his heart.

However, neither Logan, nor Marie, has taken the sheer force of nature that is Violet into account.

What Violet wants, Violet gets.

Usually…

But maybe not this time, eh?

*****

Violet makes her own gin and, along with her brother, owns the OriGINal Gin Distillery.

Logan agrees to sell the gin in his pub, The Ticklemore Tavern. Both Violet and Logan have an instant attraction to each other, both are single so they decide to see where the relationship goes.

However, Logan’s mother, Marie, believes that Violet’s intentions toward Logan aren’t good.

When Marie falls ill, Logan is torn between his mother and the woman he is quickly falling in love with.

It was so lovely to be back in Ticklemore and reunited with many familiar characters, especially Hattie.

Although The Ticklemore Tavern is the fourth book in the Ticklemore series, you don’t need to have read the first three to love this latest instalment. It can stand alone.

This book focuses on two main characters, Violet and Logan.

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Book Review: Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

”What is wrong with you?”

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She”s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn”t mean she”s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.

*****

Laura’s life has been troubled since she was in an accident as a teenager. She is seen as hot tempered, difficult, a loner and in some cases, dangerous.

Miriam witnesses Laura leaving the scene of a crime with blood on her clothes but experience has taught her that it’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is trying to come to terms with the death of her nephew. She trusts no-one.

I was such a big fan of The Girl on The Train and so I was excited to read the latest novel from Paula Hawkins.

The blurb for this book caught my attention immediately and from page one, you’re placed straight into the action. Paula Hawkins has a great way of pulling you into the lives of her characters until you look up and realise that it’s the middle of the night and you’ve read the book in one sitting.

Told from the point of view of Laura, Miriam, Carla, Irene and Theo, the narrative pulls the reader to and fro and this very much added to the suspense and overall tension of the plot.

Each character brought something interesting to the story. Laura’s backstory is tragic and you can understand why she struggles to be steady.

Miriam is a bit of an enigma and her backstory is revealed gradually through the book (and I believe could have been a novel in itself.)

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Book Review: Snowflakes over The Starfish Café by Jessica Redland

Two broken hearts.

Since she inherited The Starfish Café, Hollie has poured her heart into the business, striving to keep her mother’s traditions and warm-hearted spirit alive. But behind closed doors Hollie is searching for true happiness as she grieves the tragic loss of her family who were once the beating heart of the café…

An unexpected meeting.

Jake lives by two rules: don’t let anyone get close and don’t talk about what happened. Little does he know that a chance meeting at The Starfish Café, facilitated by a fluffy lost dog, is about to turn his world upside down…

The chance to love again.

Can Hollie and Jake break down the barriers that have been holding them back from finding love and happiness, before Christmas comes around? After all, with courage, nothing is impossible…

*****

Hollie puts her all into the Starfish Café, trying to keep her mother’s spirit alive as she grieves for her family.

Jake has never let anyone get close to him, especially since his tragic childhood left him without his parents.

A chance encounter involving a lost dog brings these two together. Can they overcome their own grief and find a new life?

It was initially the cover of this book that drew me toward it. It conjures romance and so I couldn’t wait to get started on the novel.

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Book Review: One Lucky Summer by Jenny Oliver

I’m so pleased to welcome Jenny Oliver to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, One Lucky Summer. 

With an air of faded splendour, Willoughby Hall was an idyllic childhood home to Ruben de Lacy. Gazing at it now, decades later, the memories are flooding back, and not all of them are welcome…

In a tumbledown cottage in Willoughby’s grounds, Dolly and Olive King lived with their eccentric explorer father. One of the last things he did was to lay a treasure hunt before he died, but when events took an unexpected turn, Dolly and Olive left Willoughby for good, never to complete it.

But when Ruben uncovers a secret message, hidden for decades, he knows he needs Olive and Dolly’s help. Can the three of them solve the treasure hunt, and will piecing together the clues help them understand what happened to their families that summer, all those years ago?

*****

Olive and Dolly spent their childhood living in a cottage on the grounds of Willoughby Hall, the estate owned by the De Lacy family.

The girl’s father sets up a treasure hunt for them but tragedy means that the girls leave before completing it.

Years later, Ruben De Lacy is back at his family’s estate. By accident, he uncovers the first clue in that last treasure hunt.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Running From The Circus

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

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

Today’s prompt: Running From The Circus. 

The circus comes to town but instead of wanting to run to it, your character wants to run as far away from it as possible.

The circus and your character have history and when they met someone from their past, they can’t run.

Starting line – ‘well, I didn’t think I would see you again.’ 

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Book Extract & Review: Lips Like Strawberries by Michael Stephenson

I am pleased to be welcoming Michael Stephenson to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for his novel, Lips Like Strawberries.

Here’s a little about the novel…

For some, it’s the eyes. For others, the heart. But for Ara Lake, the thing that first made her fall in love… was the taste of his lips.

Ara Lake has always thought of herself as living a normal life. She works a regular job, lives in the city and, like any single 30-year-old, fantasizes about finding someone to spend her life with that isn’t her best friend Latre Simms. There’s only one problem. She hasn’t left her apartment since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Three years later, her agoraphobia hasn’t fully kept her walled off from the outside world. She can thank her abnormal abilities for that! Ara’s superpower allows her to sense the world through someone else’s senses for 12 hours. Everything changes when her powers introduce her to a man whose lips taste succulent, juicy, and sweet, like her favorite fruit.

Now, she must embark on a journey of love, strength, and self-discovery that she never expected and isn’t fully sure will end well. But she has to learn to trust her own senses and, in a post-coronavirus world, give herself over to love at first kiss as she ventures to find the one with Lips Like Strawberries!

A romantic comedy for the modern era, Lips Like Strawberries will make you laugh, cry and acknowledge the strength it takes just to fall in love. A perfect beach read to cure our collective lockdown blues, get a taste for love today!

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, Michael has shared an extract with us. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

“Oh, sorry about that,” Ara said, apologizing for the over-touch.

The woman smiled, then let her face droop back into its resting mug. There it was again: a sullen, sad, almost depressing look, as if she knew profound sorrow. Very distracting. Not only did Ara have these powers, she was also an empath. The pain of others magnetized her to try to do something good for them. But because she didn’t know what to do, she simply stopped and stared at the woman walking down the hall.

The elevator arrived and the woman got on, only then breaking Ara’s trance. “Wait,” Ara called. “You didn’t tell me your…” The doors closed. “… name.” Ara looked down at the metal barrier between her apartment and the hallway. Her affliction was so bad that she couldn’t even enter the hall, let alone go outside. If she wanted to know that woman’s name, chasing after her was out of the question. “Eh! Maybe I don’t need to know your name.” It was always nice to know whose senses she shared, but not necessary. She closed her door and went to the kitchen for dinnerware.

She counter-ed the food and said, “Alright, let’s see what I get tonight. What sense are you gonna share with me… delivery girl.” She closed her eyes and focused on her abilities. This was the only way she knew how to activate and deactivate her powers. Holding her eyes shut tight, she raised her hands and crossed her fingers for something good and…

She suddenly tasted the distinctive flavor of cinnamon. Smacking her jaws up and down, she worked her tongue from cheek to cheek, then lamented, “Taste? What? Oh, come on!” She started unpacking the food, turned to get herself a plate, shuffled across the kitchen to the utensils drawer and even grabbed a bottle of water off the top of the fridge, all while complaining. “Taste. That’s great. That’s lovely. I get the sense of taste from a girl that works in a Chinese restaurant, the very Chinese restaurant that I just ordered from. Gosh! I wonder if I’m going to be tasting any Chinese food at any point in the night? So stupid!”

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon

Well hello August. It’s nice to see you. 

Summer is here! With that, I wanted to pick a book for this month that feels summery and nothing screams summer like the cover and blurb for The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon.

Anyone can join our book club whether you’ve read this already or yet to start. I’ve posted a question to get the discussion going. Looking forward to talking about this book with you.

 

About the novel..

Attraction is easy… Falling in love can be hard

When Hannah meets Sonny, she’s irresistibly drawn to him: he’s sexy and confident, but only in town on holiday. That’s fine with Hannah – she doesn’t do long-term relationships. And luckily for her, neither does Sonny. But before they can even so much as kiss, Sonny receives some shocking news and commits to making serious life changes – ones that can’t and won’t include romance.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Every Breath You Take

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

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

Today’s prompt: Every Breath You Take. 

It’s the middle of August. It’s summer and it’s the best time for romance.

What about forbidden romance?

The setting is a balmy summer evening. You’re near the beach and can see a beachside cafe.

Your first line is: ‘I watch as he throws his head back, laughing at something she has said. It should be me.’

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Book Review: The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO BE SOMEONE ELSE?

Vanessa has always found it easy to pretend to be somebody different, somebody better. When things get tough in her real life, all she has to do is throw on some nicer clothes, adopt a new accent and she can escape.

That’s how it started: looking round houses she couldn’t possibly afford. Harmless fun really. Until it wasn’t.

Because a man who lived in one of those houses is dead.

And everyone thinks Vanessa killed him…

*****

Vanessa likes pretending to be other people, even if it’s only to be able to view houses for sale that she could never afford.

Harmless fun, she reasons.

That is until the owner of one of these houses is dead and people thinks she killed him.

From page one, I knew that I was going to like this novel. There was something about the plot and the writing style that is very moreish. It just pulled me in until I was finished and realised I’d read it in one sitting.

Told from the point of view of the main character, Vanessa, it goes between ‘now’ where Vanessa is staying with her sister, is without a job and lacks confidence, to ‘then,’ where we see Vanessa as a successful person with the world at her feet. Through the book, we find out what happens between these two states and begin to understand Vanessa as a character.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Put Your Reader into The Story

One of the things I am struggling most with the draft of my first novel is putting the reader into my story. 

Put it this way, there’s currently many adjectives and a lot of telling, not showing.

The thing I have heard many writers say when giving writing advice is to try and put your reader into the scene.

For example, don’t just say I walked up the hall and was scared, but try something like my heart thumped as I crept up the hall, the banging getting louder the closer I got.

I know, not my finest work but hopefully you get my point.

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Book Review: Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

My name is Alice. I’m a police officer.

I’m trying to solve a murder on a psychiatric ward.

But I’m also a patient…

They were meant to be safe on Fleet Ward: psychiatric patients monitored, treated, cared for. But now one of their number is found murdered, and the accusations begin to fly.

Was it one of his fellow patients? A member of staff? Or did someone come in from the outside?

DC Alice Armitage is methodical, tireless, and she’s quickly on the trail of the killer.

The only problem is, Alice is a patient too.

*****

Alice is a police officer.

She’s trying to solve a murder that’s occurred on Fleet Ward; a psychiatric ward where the patients are monitored.

None of them are being very forthcoming when it comes to giving Alice the information she’s after… probably because Alice is also a patient and was there the night the murder took place.

I am a fan of Mark Billingham’s books. I was immediately drawn into this novel. The premise intrigued me a lot. Yes, it is a slightly different direction to Mark Billingham’s other novels but I feel it’s a great one.

I did struggle with the mental health theme at times as there were certain elements I could relate to (I won’t bore you with the details.) I also found it a fascinating insight into the mind of a person who is sectioned in a mental health ward. I could picture the ward and the people, like I was there, seeing it all happen.

I think mental health can be quite a hard subject to get right in fiction but I feel Mark tackled it well with tact, respect and humour.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Your Repeated Horrible Day

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

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

 

Today’s prompt: Your repeated horrible day… 

You get home from the worst day of your life. You are so exhausted that you fall asleep in the same clothes.

When you wake up the next morning, things are feeling a little too familiar but you can’t quite put your finger on why.

As you gradually start your day, you realise that you’re reliving the horrible day you had the day before.

And the same the next day, and the next and the next. You’ve found yourself in a Groundhog Day.

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Book Review: The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Ruby has a plan and she can’t wait to put it into action.

On her train journey down to London to realise her dream, she meets Curtis who immediately rubs her up the wrong way.

She also meets Lewis. He is going down to London to propose to his girlfriend. The problem is, he ends up getting off the train with Ruby’s phone and without the ring.

Ruby and Curtis set out together to try and reunite the engagement ring with its owner, getting to know one another along the way.

Oh, I get so excited whenever Bella Osborne releases a new novel and it really is a pleasure to be part of the blog tour for her new book.

Being such a fan, the expectations for The Promise of Summer were high but it did not disappoint. I couldn’t put it down and read it in pretty much one sitting.

You are pulled straight into the action. I immediately wanted to know what was going on. Was Lewis going to get his ring back? Was Curtis as pompous as he seemed? Was Ruby going to see her dream happen and what was this dream?

I liked how this book was set up going between Ruby and Kim’s point of views. Both these women are different and yet they are dealing with similar things. The fear of being alone.

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Book Review: Cyprus Kiss by Murray Bailey

Cyprus Kiss is part of the Ash Carter Near East Crime Thriller series.

Those were the words on the back of a woman’s photograph. And she vanished six months ago.

It’s 1948 and military investigator Ash Carter has arrived in Cyprus.

A gang has been operating for two years, leaving a mark known to police as the kiss of death. Is this something to do with them? And why ask him for help?

After a murder, Carter begins to realise this is personal. In a race against time, Carter must work out the connection between the gang, the missing woman and the murder before it’s too late.

It’s 1948.

Ash Carter has been redeployed to Cyprus from Mandatory Palestine. He’s there as a member of Military Intelligence.

Days after his arrival, he receives a photograph with ‘help me’ written on the back.

Can Ash work out what’s going on before it’s too late?

This is definitely my kind of book and the way it’s written, I felt immersed in it very quickly, like I was there watching it unfold.

Ash is a strong main character who is, in part, motivated by his past. He’s a very believable character and he wants to respect and learn from the local people around him. He’s a lot more progressive than most of his colleagues and superiors and I liked this about him.

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