Social Media Hiatus #amwriting #bookblogging #bookblog #socialmediahiatus

Quarkton Book Drive

Just a quick heads up to let you know that I am going to be taking a little hiatus from social media for a few weeks while I try and get some writing done.

I have a writing and pitching retreat coming up and my book needs A LOT of work before then, so I need to get my head down and focus. It is going nowhere fast at the moment! It is a goal that is very important to me and I owe it to myself to give it the focus and time it deserves.

I will still be honouring all my blog tour commitments and publicising those as usual, my usual weekly features will also carry on as normal, but I apologise in advance for not being around to share other people’s blog posts as much as I usually like to.

I’m also conscious that I have a huge NetGalley backlog to clear and I really want to get the book into shape for submission by the summer, before the RNA conference in July if possible so, for these reasons, I won’t be taking on any new review requests or blog tours until September.

I’ll still be around, just maybe a little less than usual. Wish me luck as I plough through editing the book, and thank you for your support.

Winner Announcement! My Big Blog Birthday Bonanza Bookish Giveaway @Jo_Furniss #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday #Winner

So, it’s finally my birthday (Happy Birthday To Me!) and the winner of my birthday giveaway has been chosen by the discerning panel of my daughters. I am delighted to announce that the winner is (drum roll, please)…

CATHERINE SHIELDS!!!!!!

Congratulations, Catherine. I will be in touch to get the details of where to send your prize. Thank you to everyone who commented for your congratulations and kind wishes and comments on my blog, I’m feeling the love. Here is to another great two years.

ICYMI: My Big Blog Birthday Bonanza Bookish Giveaway @Jo_Furniss #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday

8 pm | 20 may | 408 byers lane

In case you missed my post last Sunday about my big birthday giveaway, I’m sharing it again. There is still time to enter, if you are quick!

Sooooo, I am quite excited because next Sunday is my blog’s second birthday!

I can’t believe it has been two years since I set up this blog and I am amazed at how far I have come in that time. The blog has changed substantially from what I initially set it up to be to what it is today, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am and the wonderful journey I’ve had along the way. I’ve read amazing books, had great experiences and made so many fantastic new friends – it has surpassed all the expectations I had when I pressed ‘Publish’ on that very first post two years ago.

Of course, all of that is thanks to you, my amazing followers. I truly appreciate the time that anyone takes to read, comment on and share my posts and it makes me so happy when people say they like my posts, or have bought a book on my recommendation, or take the trouble to engage with what I am saying. So, as a thank you, I have put together a fabulous bookish giveaway to celebrate this milestone.

The prize bundle contains eight mystery paperbacks, which are a mixture of new books from the past twelve months and a couple of my favourite books of all time, in a range of genres. One of them is a book which has been kindly donated by the author of one of my top ten books of 2018, the wonderful Jo Furniss, so a huge thank you to Jo for her generosity and support of the blog. It also includes a pile of other goodies that will delight the heart of any book lover and, I hope, enhance their pleasure in reading the books they receive. I’d love to receive this prize if I weren’t the one giving it away!

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post over the next seven days telling me what you like about my blog or letting me know which posts or categories you have particularly enjoyed over the past two years, or making a suggestion for a new feature you would like to see in the future. Make it as unique, funny or imaginative as you can. One comment will be chosen as the most interesting by a panel of my five daughters (ranging in age from 11 to 16), and the author of that comment will win the prize, so be creative.

As I say, the competition is open for 7 days and the winner will be announced in a post on the blog on Sunday 20 January 2019. It is open to UK entries only I am afraid, due to the cost of postage of the prize. The decision of the girls will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. If the winner does not claim the prize within 7 days of it being announced, a second winner will be chosen to receive the prize instead.

Good luck and thank you for all your support over the past two years, and here’s to the next two.

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Desert Island Books #bookblogger #bookblogging #amreading #readinggoals

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If you read my update post on Tuesday about my plans for the blog this year, you will recall my mentioning the new feature I am introducing called Desert Island Books.

The premise is fairly simple and not particularly cryptic, the title says it all. I will be revealing and reviewing the twelve books that I would take with me, should I be stranded alone forever on a desert island. One per month throughout the coming year. I’ll tell you what it is I particularly love about them; why they are books that I can read over and over again without getting bored and why they would be my ideal forever companions.

To be honest, the feature is really just an excuse for me to reread some of my favourite books of all time and share them with you, but it is also an interesting exercise. Could you narrow down the twelve books that you could bear to read over and over again in perpetuity without getting sick of them? Would you take books you have been meaning to read for years and never had time to tackle (risky if you end up hating them!) Old favourites to keep you company (but would you ruin them for yourself if you had to read them forever?) A mixture of old and new? What genres? Fiction or non-fiction? Food for the mind or the heart? Uplifting? Challenging? Comforting? Scary?

There is probably a psychological profile in our choices somewhere!

I will be reading one of my twelve picks per month and reviewing it on the last day of the month but, as a precursor, I thought I would reveal the thirteen books which made it on to the shortlist but fell at the final cut. A sneak peek of what is to come maybe.

I hope you will enjoy a little glimpse this year into some of my favourite books of all time and the kind of literature I would choose to read on a daily basis if I never got to pick up a new book again, and I’d love it if you’d like to share your own Desert Island Books with me, either in the comments here or on your own blogs with a link back.

So here are books 13 to 25 on the list of books I’d take to a desert island. The ones that didn’t quite make it on to the life raft with me, but over which I would weep as they sank beneath the waves.

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Jamaica Inn  by Daphne du Maurier

I love du Maurier’s books, and it was a toss up between this and Rebecca, but in the end I think this is my favourite just because it is such a marvellous combination of wild adventure story, mystery and romance, and perfectly captures the isolation and cruel beauty of the north Cornish coast and moors, and it fills me with the same thrill and dread every time I read it as it did the first time. And the heroine, Mary Yelland, really has some gumption!

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Rivals by Jilly Cooper

I would say Jilly Cooper’s books were my guilty pleasure except I don’t feel remotely guilty about loving her. Her novels are great fun, and written so tongue-in-cheek that you can’t be snobby about them. Rivals is my absolute favourite of her books because this is when Rupert Campbell-Black redeems himself  and becomes worthy of the love of the gorgeous Taggie, plus it has a hunky Irishman in it. The ultimate beach read.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Oh, how it has broken my heart to jettison Wuthering Heights and if I could have squeezed one more book under my life vest, this would have been it. However, when it came down to balancing the twelve books I was going to be reading repeatedly forever alone on a desert island, I decided that this bleak tale of destructive love may just be too depressing to keep my spirits up, and I chose another classic love story that was not doomed to end so badly, as you will see.

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The Russia House by John le Carre

The perfect spy thriller, for me. I fell in love with Barley Blair the first time I read this book, and it is a love that has endured. A reluctant and damaged man finds himself in a situation he is ill-equipped to deal with, and it has another doomed love story at its heart (I’m sensing a pattern developing!)

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Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I’m going to make a controversial statement now – I have always preferred Through The Looking Glass to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’m not sure I can explain why. Maybe it is because it hasn’t been done to death in movies, but for me it has a more interesting premise (a giant game of chess), better characters (the contrasting Red and White Queens) or the really imaginative writing (the Bread-and-Butterfly and Rocking Horsefly, with attendant illustrations, appealed, and still do appeal, to my childish heart). One of my favourite childhood books that takes me back to the days when my love of reading started and will always have a place in my heart.

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The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman

One of my favourite ever historical novels and the root of my abiding fascination with Richard III. Before Philippa Gregory, Sharon Penman was my go to author for history told through fiction and this book gives a detail glimpse into the life of Britain’s most controversial monarch from a different perspective. This was one of the first books that taught me that people can have different interpretations of historical ‘facts’ and that perspectives can be questioned. Plus the writing is vivid and beguiling.

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A Room With A View by E. M. Forster

I love to read novels that take me to foreign soil and this is the ultimate in travel literature. I defy anyone to read this book and not want to book a flight to Florence immediately. And the writing is sublime. Gorgeous, but as I’ll be having an overseas adventure of my own, I have very reluctantly let it go.

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A Time To Kill by John Grisham

I love a legal thriller and courtroom drama and, regardless of what you think of him personally, Grisham is the king of the genre. A Time To Kill was his first book and he would probably be horrified to know that I don’t believe he has bettered it. This book has everything, tight plotting, action and a moral dilemma to wrestle with. Is killing ever justified? Even though I have read this many times, it still keeps me on the edge of my seat.

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Staying On by Paul Scott

Whilst Paul Scott is more famous for writing the Raj Quartet, including The Jewel in the Crown, it was Staying On that won him the Booker Prize in 1977 and I think it is easy to see why. The story of Tusker and Lucy, trying to hang on to their old life in India after independence as the world around them changes faster than they can keep up, will break your heart. Actually, I’m not sure I can leave this one behind after all.

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The Harry Potter Series

I doubt this needs any explanation. The rich world that J.K. Rowling has built around Harry Potter would be the ideal thing to stave off boredom and loneliness on a desert island. I know taking all 7 may be classed as cheating so, if you twisted my arm, I would choose Goblet of Fire as my favourite.

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The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

There are historical novels, and then there is the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel. Set at the time where Homo Sapiens first starts to walk the planet, her books give a fascinating glimpse into how our ancestors came to be and became the dominant species against the backdrop of an extreme landscape. This is the first book in the series, and sets modern man in direct comparison to the species that came before. The way the story is told is a fascinating method of illustrating the history of this period and the level of detail in the books is mind-blowing. It is obvious Auel did copious research, but this is fed into the books appropriately and seamlessly. These books are a stupendous achievement.

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Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Another story about a hapless and unwitting stooge who is co-opted into espionage by circumstances outside of his control. However, unlike the le Carre book, Our Man in Havana has a thread of wit and humour running through it that just makes it a joy to read. The thought of James Wormold and his enlarged vacuum cleaner parts never fails to raise a smile. The fact that Greene himself worked for the intelligence services before writing this book adds a frisson of credibility to the plot and the setting of Cuba is another attraction. A perennial favourite.

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The Bafut Beagles by Gerald Durrell

Everyone is familiar with Gerald Durrell’s book, My Family and Other Animals, detailing the years of his childhood spent in Corfu with his eccentric family, but fewer are familiar with the rest of his vast body of writing. However, as a child I was obsessed with the books he wrote detailing his collecting expeditions and his life at his conservation trust and zoo in Jersey and I read them all, over and over. We never travelled abroad when I was young, and these books were my first gateway to a host of impossibly remote and alien countries in Africa and South America, and hundreds of exotic animals that I had never heard of before. These books fuelled my obsession with travelling, as Durrell’s writing is so descriptive and enticing. The Bafut Beagles, detailing his 1949 trip to Cameroon, was my favourite and, although I would like to take his whole collection to the island with me, if I had to choose one it would be this. However, there isn’t any room on the raft, so I’ll have to be my own naturalist on my desert island.

So, these are the thirteen that didn’t quite make it. Join me on 31 January for the unveiling of the first of the books that are in the top twelve.

 

 

2019 Blogging Intentions & Reading & Writing Goals @TheFictionCafe @RNATweets #RomanticNovelistsAssociation #NewWritersScheme #bookblogger #bookbloggers #bookblog #amreading #amwriting #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019

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As it is new year, and my second blogiversary is approaching, I thought I would do a little post setting out my reading and blogging goals for the coming year, such as they are.

To be honest, after the overhaul I gave the blog last summer, I am fairly happy with where it it as and am inclined to let it coast along unchanged for a while. I have the weekly slots for my Tempted by… and Friday Night Drinks features filled up to the end of May, so they will be carrying on, along with my staple book reviews. I also intend to try and do more regular posts in the Travel, Bucket List and Writing categories, as those have been somewhat haphazard so far. I have a few exciting trips already planned for the coming year, so I’m looking forward to sharing those with you.

I am introducing one new monthly feature this year, which is called Desert Island Books. Not exactly a cryptic title so you may work out the gist of what this is about but look out for a post coming on Thursday of this week for more details on this. Otherwise, it will be business as usual on the blogging front.

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On the reading front, I decided to go back to the principles which were originally behind the blog, and spend the year trying to reduce my TBR, which has gotten completely out of hand if I’m being honest. I just made a spreadsheet to keep track of all the books I own but haven’t read across all mediums and the tally is frankly embarrassing. So, I’m cutting back a bit on blog tours and focusing on reading some of my existing titles.

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To this end, I have set my Goodreads Challenge 2019 goal at 125. I am also going to attempt my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2019, which involves reading 25 books which fall into a specific categories – one every two weeks. I’ll be fitting books from my existing TBR into these categories where possible. Here are the details of the challenge, if you are interested. Watch out for the reviews of these books popping up fortnightly under the FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019 hashtag.

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(If you are interested in joining The Fiction Cafe Book Club, please follow the link above and send a request. I highly recommend it, it is the friendliest corner of the internet for book lovers.)

On the writing front, I’m back in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme for another year, working on edits to my work in progress following my report from my reader last year and planning on having the manuscript ready to pitch as soon as I can. I have a writing retreat booked for March and it is all systems go on the novel front. Wish me luck as this will be me for the next few months:

What are your goals for this year?

My Big Blog Birthday Bonanza Bookish Giveaway @Jo_Furniss #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday

8 pm | 20 may | 408 byers lane

Sooooo, I am quite excited because next Sunday is my blog’s second birthday!

I can’t believe it has been two years since I set up this blog and I am amazed at how far I have come in that time. The blog has changed substantially from what I initially set it up to be to what it is today, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am and the wonderful journey I’ve had along the way. I’ve read amazing books, had great experiences and made so many fantastic new friends – it has surpassed all the expectations I had when I pressed ‘Publish’ on that very first post two years ago.

Of course, all of that is thanks to you, my amazing followers. I truly appreciate the time that anyone takes to read, comment on and share my posts and it makes me so happy when people say they like my posts, or have bought a book on my recommendation, or take the trouble to engage with what I am saying. So, as a thank you, I have put together a fabulous bookish giveaway to celebrate this milestone.

The prize bundle contains eight mystery paperbacks, which are a mixture of new books from the past twelve months and a couple of my favourite books of all time, in a range of genres. One of them is a book which has been kindly donated by the author of one of my top ten books of 2018, the wonderful Jo Furniss, so a huge thank you to Jo for her generosity and support of the blog. It also includes a pile of other goodies that will delight the heart of any book lover and, I hope, enhance their pleasure in reading the books they receive. I’d love to receive this prize if I weren’t the one giving it away!

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post over the next seven days telling me what you like about my blog or letting me know which posts or categories you have particularly enjoyed over the past two years, or making a suggestion for a new feature you would like to see in the future. Make it as unique, funny or imaginative as you can. One comment will be chosen as the most interesting by a panel of my five daughters (ranging in age from 11 to 16), and the author of that comment will win the prize, so be creative.

As I say, the competition is open for 7 days and the winner will be announced in a post on the blog on Sunday 20 January 2019. It is open to UK entries only I am afraid, due to the cost of postage of the prize. The decision of the girls will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. If the winner does not claim the prize within 7 days of it being announced, a second winner will be chosen to receive the prize instead.

Good luck and thank you for all your support over the past two years, and here’s to the next two.

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Children in Read 2018 @TorUdall @janeholland1 @MHarrison13 @LouiseWriter @BloomsburyBooks @AmazonPub @simonschusterUK @OrendaBooks #AThousandPaperBirds #ForgetHerName #APinchOfMagic #TheLionTamerWhoLost #ChildrenInNeed

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I am sure many of you are aware of, and probably took part in, the recent Children in Read auction, where many popular authors donated signed books and other items to be auctioned off in aid of raising money for Children in Need.

I, being unable to resist a good book auction, bid on a number of items and was lucky enough to win four of the auctions I was bidding on so, in the last week, I have received signed copies of the following books:

Forget Her Name by Jane Holland

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Rachel’s dead and she’s never coming back. Or is she?

As she prepares for her wedding to Dominic, Catherine has never been happier or more excited about her future. But when she receives an anonymous package—a familiar snow globe with a very grisly addition—that happiness is abruptly threatened by secrets from her past.

Her older sister, Rachel, died on a skiing holiday as a child. But Rachel was no angel: she was vicious and highly disturbed, and she made Catherine’s life a misery. Catherine has spent years trying to forget her dead sister’s cruel tricks. Now someone has sent her Rachel’s snow globe—the first in a series of ominous messages…

While Catherine struggles to focus on her new life with Dominic, someone out there seems intent on tormenting her. But who? And why now? She doesn’t have the answers – and in one final question lies her greatest fear.

Is Rachel still alive?

I have been lucky enough to meet Jane at a recent RNA event where she was there as her romantic novelist alter ego, Beth Good and, having read some of her romantic novels, I promised I would read one of her thrillers, so I’m delighted to have this one to begin with

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

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Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?
A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

I have been wanting to get a copy of this for a while, as all my fellow book bloggers have been raving about it, so I was absolutely determined to win this one! I love the personalised dedication inside, a lovely book to be treasured.

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

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Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger? …

You will notice that the cover image of the book above is different to the photo of the book I received as shown at the top of the post. This is because this book isn’t going to be published until February 2019 so what I have is a LIMITED EDITION PROOF COPY of the book, which I am very, very excited about, can you tell? Michelle also sent me a lovely little Russian doll charm with the book which is now nestled in my book curio display shelf and I feel very lucky.

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall

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Jonah roams Kew Gardens trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life after the death of his wife, Audrey. Weathering the seasons and learning to love again, he meets Chloe, an enigmatic origami artist who is hesitant to let down her own walls.

In the gardens he also meets ten-year-old Milly, and Harry, a gardener, both of whom have secrets of their own to keep – and mysteries to solve.

Another book that I have heard amazing things about and was high on my wish list, so I was delighted to secure this one too. It came with a beautiful postcard containing a personal message from Tor and two delicate origami birds, which fascinated my daughters, and are also on the curio shelf.

I just wanted to thank all the authors for donating their work to this fabulous cause, not just the ones whose books I bid on, and make sure they get credit for their generosity. The auction raised over £5,000 for Children in Need, which I am sure you will agree is an amazing result.

If you did not take part in the auction, there is still the opportunity to donate to this wonderful cause via the Children in Need website and help out a huge programme of good causes that benefit children both in the UK and abroad.