Tag Archive | Linwood Barclay

#ROW80 Check-in and Win Books!

Yes, you read that right, win books. Yesterday I celebrated my 555th blog, with a competition to win 3 books – The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell, Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay and Emma Heart LA by Keris Stainton. The competition is still open if you want to win – just click here.

Now on with the bad bit, the check-in.

It’s gone all bad again. Well, this week is bad. This week is almost terrible. Until today I had only written 50% of days. Granted there’s only been 2, but it feels bad. To be honest, I’m really stressed at work, so don’t feel too bad taking some time off. However, as I always have some kind of excuse, I probably should.

My ROW buddy Laura and I decided at the weekend to kick ourselves back into action by seeing who could write the most each day. We’re checking in at 9pm each day. So far, we stand at:

  Helen  Laura
Saturday 0 707
Sunday 350+ 500+
Monday 0 375
Tuesday 296 300+

Well, we can see who this is working for, and it’s not me. It’s great having someone to kick my ass, even if it’s not working. At least it makes me think about writing, which I wouldn’t do without her. Thanks Laura. The new round starts in a couple of weeks, I think it’s going to be our round. I think we’re both going to smash it!

Nothing else is going particularly well either.
I did my Just Dance thing on the Wii on Sunday, but haven’t done any other exercise. I am back in the habit of 20 mins walk to and 20 mins walk from work, so that’s good. I just need to push it that extra and go to the gym, or running, or more Just Dance. Just remembered I got off the tube a stop early today, so had an extra 12 minutes walking, that’s good (even if the reason was delays rather than exercise!)

Not doing great blogging either. I’ve got a great excuse though. I decided last week to celebrate my 555th blog, but I’d just posted my 554th. That meant until I did my celebration 555 blog, I couldn’t do any others. And I dragged my feet arranging it. I’ll try harder.

I’m not going to bed early, I’m not doing my daily exercises, I’m not dieting very well (today might go ok, except I’ll probably drink half a bottle of wine – not so good, but needed, see above re work!).

This time last round I gave up. I’d done so badly running up to it, that I just couldn’t be bothered with the last week. Writing this, the thought went through my mind again, but this time, I’m stronger. I’ve not been doing well, but without ROW80 (and Laura), I bet I’d be doing worse. One week to go, lets see if I can make it count!

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555 Blog Competition

This is my 555th blog.
555.
I started blogging just over 3 years ago, which means, on average, 14 blogs a month (on average, sometimes there must have been more, because sometimes there’s been a whole lot less!). That’s quite a lot. Certainly worth celebrating anyway.
A few months ago, WordPress changed. When you posted a blog, it started telling you how many you’d posted. And it started giving you goals. Rubbish goals to the next 5 above where you were (500, 505, 510 etc). I hated it. How dare WordPress tell me what MY goals were? I had my own goals.
That’s when I made a decision. I was going to get myself a massive blog goal. A really good one. 555. That was going to be it, I love repetitive numbers.
And to celebrate hitting it, a competition.
One of my favourite things to do is read, which I think is something I share with lots of the readers of this blog. It’s obvious then isn’t it, what the competition is to win. BOOKS!
It was really easy to decide which books to give away as well – ones by my favourite authors. Yes, ONES, I’m giving away more than one. More than two in fact. I’m giving away three.
Two of my favourite current books are The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell and Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay. So those two. Then another of my favourite authors – Keris Stainton – has just brought out a book, Emma Heart LA. I’ve not read it, but if it’s anything like the last two, it’s going to be great. Three. Easy! Three books, one winner.


So, fancy winning 3 books? I’m not going to make it hard, just leave a ‘pick me’ comment (leaving your email address, for my eyes only), by midnight (BST – London time) on Friday 22nd June. After that, my independent adjudicator (boyfriend) will pick a name out of a hat (or more likely a bowl, or mug, or maybe, to make it special, a champagne glass). I know a lot of people are non-UK based, so the competition is open internationally. For an extra entry, tweet about the competition – remember to let me know you’ve done it though and your twitter name if it’s not the same as your name here, either on here or directly on twitter (@new2writinggirl).
Good luck everyone.

A to Z Reading Challenge 2011

Ok, so I’m a little late doing this, sorry, but better late than never eh!

In late 2010, I heard some people talking about reading novels from A to Z. I thought, what a brilliant idea, and decided to set myself a challenge of doing exactly that in 2011. As I was writing a blog about it, it occurred to me that other people may have the same idea. I googled A to Z Challenge and found this site – A to Z Challenge I didn’t have to start one all by myself!

I started with no plan at all, except to read the A to Z (author surname) in order, and stick pretty much to just those 26 books. In 2010 I’d read about 24 books, so knew I wasn’t going to be able to read many more than the 26.

Of course as time went by and I made my way through the challenge, I found there were other books I really wanted to read that either were a letter way further down the line, or that had a letter I’d already read, or already planned what I was going to read for it. I let myself read a couple of other novels – but only if I REALLY wanted to needed to.

I did cheat a little. Kinna. I didn’t actually finish 26 novels. There were 3 letters that for different reasons I didn’t finish the novel.

Letter L was Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee, I started it and was enjoying it, but it was all about sex, when this girl had it, where she had it and how much she thought about it. Nothing really wrong with that, but I do most of my reading on the tube, I felt embarrassed reading it on the tube, so picked up M, and told myself I’d read L at home. I never got round to it.

Letter O was a really good book – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I got it from the library (a god send, I couldn’t have afforded 26 books in 1 year on top of the ‘really want ones’), and took it to Sweden when I went. I’m not sure if it was on the flight, at the hotel, or our friends’ house, but somewhere I lost it. Typical. I ended up having to pay it in the end anyway. I’d gone on to P while I was away, and just never got the opportunity to go back to it. At some point, I would like to buy it, or borrow it and finish reading it.

Letter Z was a hard one, which I started before a few other letters. I unexpectedly finished the novel I was reading on a Sunday and didn’t have a chance to go and get the next letter. Boyfriend came to the rescue and gave me a Z – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was sci-fi which isn’t my choice, but I’d borrowed a couple off him in the years previously which I quite enjoyed. Lord of Light was not another one though. I just couldn’t get into, or really understand it. I gave it 50 or so pages, but couldn’t go on. When I gave it back to boyfriend, he said he’d had a hard job getting into it. Sigh.

So, I didn’t make 26 novels, but I started them all. In my book I finished it – yay!

Also, I didn’t review all, or add any of my review to the site, but to be honest, I didn’t find the website too easy to navigate, and lets face it, all I need is a little excuse and I won’t do something. I guess technically if I didn’t check-in, I didn’t really do it. In my mind I did though!

I’m really glad I did the challenge, I read a lot of authors that I’d never had done otherwise, and you know me, I love a challenge. But, I’d never do it again. I found it WAY too constrictive, and because I knew I couldn’t really read many other books, I felt guilty when reading one that wouldn’t go towards the challenge. There were times when I just HAD to read other books – like The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon and Faking It by Lotte Daley – and there were many, many more times when I wanted to read another book, but just couldn’t. There were also quite a few letters where I was so torn over which novel to read. M was a good example, I had about 3 books with the letter M on my TBR shelf at home. So what did I do? I went out and bought another. Typical! It was New Moon (Twilight) by Stephanie Meyer.

I discovered some brilliant authors because of the challenge though – Jeff Abbott, Allison Brennan, Ilana Fox Rob Ryan, Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and Minette Walters. Weird – most of the new good authors write thrillers… what does that tell me? I say I prefer women’s lit (chick-lit), but it’s a close call. I did discover new chick-lit authors, but when I discovered them, I read them out of sequence and out of the challenge because I just HAD to read them there and then (Ali McNamara and Lotte Daley)

I know all the books are listed on my ‘Books’ page, but here’s a list of them – from A to Z. Just for fun, I’m putting a comment and rating out of 5 after each one – not something I usually do. The ones which I have reviewed have the links to the actual review.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – brilliant. Can’t wait to read the other ones in the series – 4.5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern – Prefered her earlier stuff, but still pretty good – 4/5 (I couldn’t choose between the As, so read them both)

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – Loved it, love his work – 5/5

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – So happy I discovered her. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series 4.5/5 (ditto the comment re A for B)

The Famous Writer’s School by Stephen Carter – Not what I imagined. 2.5/5

Ex-Girlfiends United by Matt Dunn – Little slow 2.5/5

Past Mortem by Ben Elton – Good, he’s done better, but still good – 4/5

Spotlight by Ilana Fox – Didn’t expect to, but loved it 4.5/5

The Love Verb by Jane Green – As usual loved it – 4.5/5

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes – Slow 2/5

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro – Couldn’t get over the cultural difference – 2/5

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Once got into it, really enjoyed – 4/5

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Loved every second – 4.5/5

Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee – what I read was good. I will finish it at some point 3/5

Twilight: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – Not as great as Twilight, but still good. 4/5

One Day by David Nicholls – Took a long time to get into it. Had me crying like a baby at the end though. 3.5/5

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell* – I need to finish this – 3/5

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks – as always a brilliant read from Ms Parks  4.5/5

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – took ages to get into the story – 2.5/5

Trans Am by Rob Ryan – fast paced, gripping – 4.5/5

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton – loved. Better than her first (and, you know –New York) – 4.5/5

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Brilliant 4.5/5

Die for You by Lisa Unger – Not what I expected in a really good way. 4/5

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine – slow, slightly boring. 2.5/5

The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Excellent – 4.5/5

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu – Really enjoyed it 4/5

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto* – again, couldn’t get over the cultural differences 2/5

Lord of light by Roger Zelazny – just couldn’t get into it – sci-fi really isn’t my thing – 1/5

All in all, it was a good year, but I’m glad it’s over and I can read what I want to read, not what’s next on the list!

Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2011 and 2012

Back at the tail end of 2009, I discovered the brilliant Book Chick City, around the time of sign-ups for the Thriller & Suspense Challenge 2010 were happening. Was I tempted? Of course – 12 Thriller or Suspense books in 12 months. What a plan.


Plan didn’t go exactly to plan though, and at the end of December 2010 I was frantically reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger in the hope that I could finish it by the end of the year, and that it would count as a thriller/suspense. Someone else had added it as their book, so I figured I was good on that, then on 30th (I think) I finished it. Phew.


Even before I finished it, I knew I had to do it again, so after the slight name change to the Mystery & Suspense Challenge, I signed up again – promising myself to do better in 2011. 


I thought I was doing ok when we had about 2 months left, even though November was NaNo, so my reading time was limited. I was wrong I had 4 books left to read. Eek. Somehow I powered through the writing madness and continued to read. Then mid December I did a count up, and I’d actually read 13 books. Um, oops. How did that happen? Me thinks someone’s maths isn’t that great (counting to 12 – apparently it’s harder than it sounds!). Just to prove how bad my calculations are – I’ve just recounted, and only have 12. Hmm. Something odd is going on here!


Yay, I completed the challenge again. The only problem is that until today, I hadn’t posted my reviews for them all. Heck, I read them, that’s what counts.


Here’s the list of the books I read (with links to each full review and just a very quick, few worded review here):


January – A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – Brilliant, can’t wait to read the next 2 books in the series


February – Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – Again, fab. Again can’t wait to read the other 2 books in the series.


February – Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – I think Barclay is my favourite thriller author at the moment – says it all.


April – Past Mortem by Ben Elton – not as good as some of his other books, but still really good.


June – The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Love Jewell so much. This took me a while to get into, but once I was there I was hooked.


June – The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Love Koomson and everything she writes – this included.  


August – Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – Took me a while to get into this, and the whole pace was a bit too slow for me.


September – Trams AM by Rob Ryan – Brilliant. Loved from start to finish


October – Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Was hooked from the off – brilliant.


October – The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Love, love, love.


October – Die for You by Lisa Unger –


November – The Birthday Present by Barbra Vine (Ruth Rendell writing as) – slow, and bored me a little.


12 books, 12 months. I loved the challenge so much, that, yep, you guessed it, I’m doing it again in 2012 – yay!


Like the past 2 years, you don’t have to chose the books you are going to read for the challenge ahead of time, but I know for sure that I want to read the next one from each of the series’ by Jeff Abbott and Allison Brennan that I read in 2011. Other than that, I just don’t know, but can’t wait to find out.


Read more about the challenge here and if you’re interested sign up – it’s great – you won’t regret it!

(Untitled Blog)

I need to stay away from Facebook. It’s bad for me. Well, it’s bad for my writing. I’ve been saying for weeks that it is my life at the moment that’s conspiring against me from writing and blogging, and for a while it was. But this week, it’s definitely been Facebook. Or more specifically the games on there. I am obsessed with Bubble Spinner. It’s like a game I was obsessed with a uni – which I’ve totally forgotten the name of. I think I’ve got an obsessive personality (apparently it runs in families, and my dad totally has – I had no hope!)

I finished Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan yesterday. I loved it. During the first half, I spent most of the time questioning why I was enjoying it and reading it, when the topic was so nasty and was pretty gory. But the way it’s written just draws you in, and I loved the characters. This book is the final in a trilogy – I’ve not read the first two, but I really want to go back and read them (when I’m not doing an A to Z challenge).  The MCs in the first and second are siblings of one of the MCs in Fear No Evil so I kind of know them, althoug I’m not as keen to read them as I would be if it was the same MC  (Dillon the MC in this one is awesome – you know if it was a film you’d totally fancy him).

I’ve just realised I’m totally behind with my reviews for books for both the A to Z challenge and the Mystery & Suspense challenge. Hmmm. Will have to rectify that sometime. Maybe I’ll wait until I have the week off and catch up then. So far I’ve read 2 for the Mystery & Suspense and A and B for the alphabet one. Or more technically A and A and B. I’m just about to start another B… oops… But… it’s also another for the M&S challenge, so all good. I guess. Kind of.

That paragraph I wrote about Fear No Evil was almost a book review. Hmmmm. Might have to use that!

The next book I’m going to read is Linwood Barclay’s Fear the Worst. I bought it last weekend, but don’t have a clue what it’s about. I bought it totally on the author’s reputation. I’ve read two of his books and loved them, so when I saw another I had to have it.

Imagine… being an author whose books people buy on the knowledge of your writing. Cecelia Ahern, whose book The Book of Tomorrow I read earlier in the month, is the same – I picked that up because I knew I had to read more of her writing if it was available. It didn’t matter what it was about. Marian Keyes, Jane Green, Lisa Jewell and Dan Brown are some of those people. There are more, I know there are more, but I can’t think of them now. 

Ok, I’m off to bed – I have another full day of packing and moving stuff across London (literally all the way across – from North West to South East – we must be nuts!)

Starting to Move and BOOKS!

So my big news (totally un writing related) is that I’ve found a flat. I should really say ‘we.’ My boyfriend and I are getting our own place… in 3 weeks. Yay! It’s this cute little flat in an area called Canada Water really really close to the Thames, and almost with a wicked view of Canary Wharf. Nearly. Just 2 weeks of work, a week off, a weekend move then we’re in – awesome.

We have to move out of where we are now about 5 days before we can move into the new flat, so we’ve decided to take the whole week off work, and go back to the midlands to see the parents (they live pretty close, so we can do all of them in the same visit – nice). I’ve already started thinking about the writing I can get done that week.

Yes, you read that – WRITING. I’m fully going to get back into it soon. I’ve got a lot of packing and sorting to do in the next couple of weeks (two weeks yesterday we move out, and yes, I did move about 6 weeks ago, but we’ve got to put our stuff in storage for a week, so I need to pack better!), but I’m going to try to do some. I’ll then have a week of holiday, where I’ll get at least a little done each day – in fact I’ll set myself a challenge of 250 words a day, EVERY day during that week. We move that weekend, and then settle in, so I’ll get my new routine for writing. I can’t wait.

Earlier on today, I unpacked all my books (to get them all in one place rather than about 8 smaller boxes and bags) and put them in piles: fiction, non-fiction and cookery books. There were loads. Tonnes. I should have counted how many there were. I didn’t. But I did the next best thing. Took a picture:

The fiction books are in the huge pile at the front. I’ve read about 6 of them. All the rest are on my TBR pile (which is obviously why I went out and bought a couple more yesterday!). The ones at the back in the blue box and to the left are the non fiction, and the smaller pile on the right are my cookery books. The tiny pile in the bottom right  are the five I’m chucking out. Five. Oh dear!

I our new place we’re going to get a wall to ceiling, length of the room bookcase/shelving unit. I cannot wait to get it and get these all out on show. EXCITING!

I did some writing this morning. I was lying in bed awake because someone had set the alarm, even though we had a day off and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I started thinking about the book I’m reading (Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan) and thinking about how well she does graphic violence scenes. Well enough that every time I get asked how my book is, I say it’s horrible. So, really well. That led me to think I couldn’t do it that well. But then, how do I know? I’ve never tried. So I tried. Typically for me, it turned into a character analysis. Janey was watching her friend get tortured by having her finger chain sawed off (nice eh), but there was only a little about the blood, then it went to why Janey couldn’t run in and help, and how she was feeling. Hmmm. I don’t want to, but I think I should practice this type of writing. You never know where it will come in handy.

One final thing about valentine’s day – although more about books. The man in my life doesn’t go in with the whole valentines day thing. I used to get upset about it, but as he buys me things all the time, takes me out for dinner etc I don’t mind so much any more. He cooked me dinner last night, which was really nice (especially since we’d put an offer in on a flat that day too – I totally took that as my present!), but then at like 22.00 he decided we were going shopping cause he wanted to buy me a book – or two. WOOP! I love 24 hour supermarkets! At first I couldn’t find anything I wanted. Then I found loads. I settled on two though. Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay and another book that I totally can’t remember. And is now in the bottom, or maybe middle or top, of a sealed box ready to move. Damn. It’s there because I know I can’t read it for a while cause the author’s surname begins with H or M or something, and in my A to Z challenge I’m on B. And want to read another B and maybe two Cs. It’s going to be a while!

Really Good Books

I was thinking earlier it would be really good to do a blog today. Then I started wondering what I could write – it’s not like I’m actually writing is it. So that would leave… reading. I’m really enjoying the book I’m reading now Jeff Abbott’s A Kiss Gone Bad, and the thought of that led me to… I’m reading a lot of really good books at the moment.

In 2009 I only read 17 or something books, and only a handful of them really stood out. I think I tried to do a top ten books I read that year, but didn’t have a top ten. There just weren’t enough good ones there.

Last year was the opposite. I read 45 books, and enjoyed a huge number of them. So, what better way to spend a blog, than with my top books of last year. I was thinking top ten, but going through my list, I’ve actually made a top twenty. Hope it’s not too boring:

YA:

  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (I only read this to prove to people I wouldn’t like it. I loved it. I think it’s my favourite book of the year)
  • Avalon High by Meg Cabot (When I was researching YA novels before writing mine, I knew I had to read one of Ms Cabot’s books – the queen of teen and all that)
  • Summer Dreams Winter Love by Mary Francis Shura (this was my favourite book growing up, and I wanted to read it again. It still had that magic)
  • Della Says… OMG by Keris Stainton (I loved the sound of this when I started following Keris’ blog, and was lucky enough to get invited to her launch party where she signed the book. After all that I was so glad I loved it)

Chick Lit:

  • Love Lies by Adele Parks (I got given a small booklet on the street. It was the first two chapters. I couldn’t read just that, I had to get the whole book and read it.  But then I love Adele Parks so would have had to get it at some point anyway)
  • Foursome by Jane Fallon (This is the best book I read in this category. I loved everything about it, and will definitely be on the lookout for more books by her)
  • Husbands by Adele Parks (what can I say? I love the lady, I had to read more than one)
  • The Happy Home for Broken Hearts by Rowan Coleman (I got a copy of this from the publisher to review. I was pretty scared I wouldn’t like it then there would be loads of pressure on me to say something nice about it. Luckily it was great – it was Rowan Coleman, of course it was great)
  • The Baby Group by Rowan Coleman (ditto the great comment above)
  • What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson (another that is in my top three of the year I imagine. Great. Not sure if it’s really chick lit, but I think it belongs here)
  • Ralph’s Party by Lisa Jewell (I read this when it came out ten years ago,  but after winning a ticket to an evening with Lisa, I thought I should re-read it before I went. So glad I did, I’d forgotten how good it was. And Lisa Jewell – she’s awesome and funny, and has a great story of how she got published. I like the idea that mine could go the same way…)

Thrillers:

  • Until It’s Over by Nicci French (my step mum gave me this, saying she loved it. Well, so did her step daughter)
  • The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner (Although this is only the second book of hers I’ve read, I am a huge Meg Gardiner fan, and this is my favourite book. Can’t wait to start on her other series of books)
  • Too Close to Home by Linwood Barclay (Again second book of his I’ve read. Again this is my favourite)
  • Random by Craig Robertson (I got this free from the publisher because of doing the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge. It’s his debut book, and it’s brilliant)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & The Girl Who Played with Fire both by Stieg Larsson (I only picked the first up because of the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge. I was so glad I did. I watched the movie too – it sucked)

 Sci-Fi:

  • The Caves of Steel by Asimov (I read this on recommendation from the other half. He thought I should read something DIFFERENT, so I did. I didn’t want to enjoy it, but I did. I want to read the rest in the Robot series)
  • 1984 by George Orwell (It’s a classic – I had to read it at some time. This was the year. It totally deserves the hype it gets)

I really hope 2011 is as good for books as last year was. I’m on book three, and so far it’s certainly shaping up that way!

What were your favourite books from last year?