Tag Archive | Lisa Jewell

2014 TBR Pile Challenge

I’m very excited that Roof Beam Reader is hosting the TBR Pile Reading Challenge again – for the 5th year! I’ve started the last two years, but failed both, so I’m hoping to do better this year!

The challenge is, as it suggests to read books from your TBR Pile. I can’t even count how many are on my list, and book shelf. We’re thinking about moving in a couple of months, so last weekend, I took a box – big box – of books to our storage unit to get them out the flat. And I’ve still got 4 shelves fully – with two rows per shelf. So there’s loads.

This year though, I decided to take books, partly off my shelf, but mainly from the list I’ve written over the last few years. Every time I see a book I want to read, in a magazine, shop, on TV, a friend recommends, or wherever, I write it on this list. It’s quite long.

I have to choose 12, and 2 spares (just in case) now, then as I read them, review them, link on here, and on Roof Beem Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge. Here’s my 2014 list:

1 – The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (2012)

2 – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2011) (21/2/14)

3 – The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend (2012)

4 – Lets Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (2012)

5 – Breakfast at Darcy’s Ali McNamara (2011)

6 – How We Met by Katy Regan (2012)

7 – The Man Who Forgot His Wife John O’Farrell (2012)

8 – Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coeho (1998)

9 – China Lake by Meg Gardiner (2002)

10 – The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern (2011)

11 – Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell (2012)

12 – The Greatest love Story of All Time by Lucy Robinson (2012)

And the extras, in case I can’t get through one or two.

13 – Something Missing by Matthew Dicks (2009)

14 – The Other Family by Joanna Trollope (2010)

As I said, I didn’t complete 2012 and 2013, so as the saying goes, I want to make the third time lucky! See Roof Beam Reader’s sign up for the challenge here.

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#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!

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.

After The Party by Lisa Jewell Review

It’s eleven years since Jem Catterick and Ralph McLeary first got together. They thought it would be for ever, that they’d found their happy ending. As everyone agreed, they were the perfect couple.

Then two became four, a flat became a house. Romantic nights out became sleepless nights in. And they soon found that life wasn’t quite so simple any more. But through it all Jem and Ralph still loved each other, of course they did.

Now the unimaginable has happened. Two people who were so right together are starting to drift apart. And in the chaos of family life, Ralph feels more and more as if he’s standing on the sidelines, and Jem that she’s losing herself. Something has to change. As they try to find a way back to each other, back to what they once had, they both become momentarily distracted – but maybe it’s not too late to recapture happily ever after …

 

I bought this over two years ago, at an Evening with Lisa Jewell event. I met Lisa herself, chatted to her (about writing and editing, she likes editing, I hoped her encouragement would have made me at least try editing a novel, it didn’t!), and she signed the book. The problem back then, was that I couldn’t read it.

I’d literally (like three weeks before) just gone through a break up. I was emotionally fragile. I knew the premise of the book was Jem and Ralph having problems in their relationship. I suspected they were going to split up. But what after? How would that relate to my life? Obviously it wouldn’t, whatever happened in a book written by someone else, wasn’t going to have any impact on my relationship. BUT, I felt that if they broke up and stayed apart I’d be even sadder than I was, and lose hope in love, which I didn’t want to do. If they stayed together, or broke up then got back together, it would have given me hope that my ex and I would get back together.

I mean yeah, of course.

So I put ATP to a back shelf, to read when I was stronger. Four months later my ex and I got back together, but the book by this point was at the back of my TBR pile, I’d get round to it. Then I wanted to read it towards the end of last year, but I’d just written 55,000 words of a novel about a relationship falling apart, I needed to finish it in my words, not let Lisa’s writing or ideas influence me (I’m possibly a very influencable person – if that’s a word).

Then I signed up for the TBR Pile Challenge and just knew that ATP had to be on it. Wednesday morning I picked it up.

Now, since Wednesday (when I started feeling better after the nasty virus that knocked me down and kept me away from work), I had a massive to do list. Obviously then, I’d pick up a novel by one of my favourite authors. Like duh!

I couldn’t put it down. literally couldn’t put it down. I went back to work on Thursday so wanted an early night on Wednesday, but I couldn’t put it down. I’ve a ton of house cleaning to do, but I couldn’t out the novel down. I stayed up till 1.30am last night reading it, but couldn’t keep my eyes open so had to put it down. This morning I finished it, instead of cleaning the house, instead of writing up some meeting minutes, instead of blogging or writing.

It was brilliant. The characters were so realistic, sometimes I wanted to shout at them, cause they felt so real. I don’t think I need to say that the story kept me gripped from the off (if I do, re read the previous paragraph!). AND, I cried my eyes out at the end. It’s been a while since a book had that effect on me, and I loved it.

I love books that actually make me think, I want to say that change me, but that’s a bit strong, books that make me look at my life in a different way. This totally has done this. We want to have kids in the next few years, and going through the actual being a parent thing with Jem and Ralph has made me want to appreciate not having kids before we do, appreciate each other when us is just the two of us, not three or four or whatever.

After the Party is the follow up to Ralph’s Party, Jewell’s first novel 10 years previously. I love the idea of a follow up to what happened in the previous, because you always get to the end of a novel, and it’s happy ever after. Only it’s not. It’s happy right then. Exploring 10 years later is just brilliant.

Meeting Lisa was an awesome experience, here’s a picture from that night.

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!

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell (@lisajewelluk)

When she was nine years old, Melody Browne’s house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it. But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took with it all her memories – Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday.

Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a council flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn’t mind, she’s better off on her own. She’s made a good life for herself and her son and she likes it that way.

Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember. At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her to the seaside town of Broadstairs, to oddly familiar houses in London backstreets and to meetings with strangers who love her like their own. But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past…

As you’d know if you read many of my blogs/reviews I love Lisa Jewell. In fact I’m shocked it took me so long to read this.

When I found it quite tough to get into, I was really surprised, until I realised why. Melody Browne isn’t much older than me, and yet she has a teenage son and is living in pretty poor area. I’m childless and live in an ok area. It just took me a while to connect with the character because she wasn’t like me – at all.

But, when I did, guess what? I loved it. I fell in love with Melody and was excited to be going on her journey to find out about her history with her – as well as finding herself in the present.

It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s brilliant. I’d totally, totally recommend it to anyone. I love Lisa Jewell.