February Favourites

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This month I read six books, my hands down favourite was the wonderful Love, Lies and Spies by  Cindy Anstey. Published by SwoonReads it lived up to their name and was extremely swoony and lots of fun. I highly recommend it.

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I seem to have watched a lot of movies, perhaps because I’m not currently hooked on a  TV show, recommendations of bingeworthy shows are welcome. My favourite has to be The Batman Movie, which we all went to see for Family Day. My son loved it, there were plenty of laugh out loud moment for kids and adults, and we all left the cinema happy and energized. I could do without my son’s addiction to the theme song though. I’m trying to steer him back to the Moana soundtrack, which is delightful.

I’ve been listening to the Side Hustle School podcast a lot, there’s a new episode every day. It’s part of a family of podcasts launched by Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) under the umbrella of The Onward Project. I am completely fascinated by all the amazing things people have created. Although I have no idea what kind of side hustle I could start host, Chis Guillebeau, is convinced we all have a side hustle in us.

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I’m also addicted to this green smoothie. I use spinach, banana, protein powder, almond butter and milk. It’s the perfect post Crossfit drink.

My favourite thing I read on the internet this month was a post by Laini Taylor about second drafts, called How do you keep going when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing?  I write incredibly messy first drafts and then have to wrestle them into shape which can take years (yes, years!). I’m currently battling through a revision and I think the end is in sight, but I’m at the stage where I don’t know if I’ve made it better or a million times worse. Next time I swear I am going to outline.

What were your favourite things about February?

 

 

 

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens

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Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells, the founding members of the Wells & Wong Detective Society are back. Having triumphantly solved not one but two murder cases, they are off on holiday. They’re accompanied by Hazel’s father, the very proper Mr Wong, who has expressly forbidden them to become involved in any more cases. They are going to see the sights and behave like proper young ladies.

 

Unfortunately for Mr Wong, among the passengers of The Orient Express, a murderer is lurking, and soon enough Hazel and Daisy are back to detecting. This time assisted, much to Daisy’s horror, by Alexander a young American passenger.

 

It seems wrong to describe these books as good fun when they’re about murder, but they really are so much fun. Hazel narrates the books, in the form of writing up the societies casebook. She is easy to relate to, kind, smart and empathetic. Daisy, on the other hand, is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and a Nancy Mitford heroine. She is smart, single minded and incredibly sure of herself. They make a great pair and it’s nice to see the development of their friendship through the series, as Hazel slowly grows out of Daisy’s shadow.

The setting was a real highlight in this one and a lovely homage to Agatha Christie’s original. I loved all the details about the train, the cabins and the food (the food is described so well in this series!).

There was a diverse and interesting range of characters, who are all highly suspect. Except, thankfully, for Mr Wong. He is, as the girls would say, a good egg. I really liked Mr Wong. The final reveal is clever, but completely believable and utterly satisfying.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Hazel and Daisy do next.

Ten Books to Make You Smile on Blue Monday

Apparently, today is the most depressing day of the year; Blue Monday. So here are ten books to make you smile and fill you up with happiness.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K Rowling

Any of the Harry Potter books will do really, but this one is my absolute favourite. I love the beginning on the Knight bus. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

A book that’s all about how to be happier by making small changes to your everyday life. The perfect way to chase away the January blues.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Cassandra wry observations of her family always make me smile. Any book that begins “I write this sitting with my feet in the kitchen sink” has got to be happiness inducing.

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jacalyn Moriarty

There are heartbreaking bits in this book, but if Em’s letters to Charlie, and his replies, don’t have you laughing out loud you’re missing your funny gene.

Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway

This one is so much fun. Audrey’s voice is fantastic and there are plenty of funny moments as she navigates how to cope with being the subject of a hit song.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The book just gives me the warm fuzzies every time. Plus it’s set in Paris!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

If you’re a book worm and a fangirl then Cath’s story will delight you and leave you smiling for days.

Wyrd Sisters By Terry Pratchett

I defy anyone not to laugh out loud multiple times during this book. My go to read when I’m feeling blue.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

“Always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in despair. . .they lived in a world of superlatives.” Visiting the Radlett family always leaves me feeling happy.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

How can you not forget your troubles when reading about Lizzy and Darcy?

 

 

 

Speed of Life Blog Tour – Joëlle Anthony and I talk Critique Partners

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I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for SPEED OF LIFE by J.M Kelly aka Joëlle  Anthony.

As well as being a wonderful author, Joëlle is my dear friend, and my critique partner. To celebrate the publication of SPEED OF LIFE, Joëlle and I had a chat about critique partners, how to find them, and why they’re important. We hope you enjoy it.

 

Joëlle  A lot of people ask me how I found my critique partners, and so I want to say right here that we became friends first. I think the best thing a writer can do is find other writers to hang out with (in real life or virtually) and get to know them so they know if they can trust them to help them or not. I remember thinking a lot of you (as I do now) from the beginning and knowing I could trust your opinion because you said smart things on your blog about the books you were reading.

 Each of my early readers seem to offer different things based on their personalities. One of the things that’s great about having a Brit read my writing is that sometimes things I think are really clear, aren’t always so straight forward to you. This keeps me honest as a writer. You’re also very good at noticing the things other people seem to miss…and when it comes to any romance in the book, I can count on you to call me on anything cheesy or things that don’t need to be there at all.

 Hopefully I offer you something when I critique your writing. Maybe you can talk about that?

Alexa You were the first person to read my first story! It was a really terrifying experience, but I trusted you and I knew you would make the story better, which you did. You were so helpful and encouraging, but you also gave me a lot of notes on what was wrong too.

You’re great at structure and telling me when the story isn’t moving along rapidly enough. You also make my work better by encouraging me to be meaner to my characters and really push them to the edge.

Joëlle  I am not good at pulling punches when critiquing. I will always tell you what’s good (funny, lovely, wonderful), but I also will just say, “Your teen boy sounds like he’s 40 years old.” And I don’t really worry about your feelings because the truth is that if I sugar-coat anything, then you just have to do more work in the end. I really feel like it’s kinder to say, “this bit is slow.” I was probably more scared than you when I critiqued you because the last thing I’d want to do is hurt your feelings, but I don’t really know how to critique any other way.

 Do you have advice for people trying to find critique partners? Do you have others besides me? How did you find them?

Alexa   I’ve found all my critique partners the same way – people I got friendly with through blogs or social media. So that’s the way I’d recommend doing it. You need chemistry with your critique partners; it’s a really important relationship. It’s so great when you find someone you click with, who gets what you’re trying to do.

Have you ever critiqued in person rather than over email?

Joëlle  I sometimes critique at conferences. I love doing the “blue pencils” at conferences because the writers make an appointment with me, bring in 3 pages, I read them quickly, and then we discuss them. I think this works really well because you can share first impressions. I’ve also done ones where I’ve read 20-50 pages ahead of time and then met face to face with the writer for thirty minutes. I find those much more difficult because if they’re not that good, then you have to try and figure out not only some positives, but also which things to tackle because you can’t cover everything in thirty minutes. And just for the record, I am a lot more gentle with people who I don’t know personally because I NEVER want to discourage anyone. But it often makes me feel as if I’m not really helping them as much as I could too, so I try not to do this too often.

 

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SPEED OF LIFE is in stores now.

 

I hope you’ll visit the other blogs taking part in the tour and pick up a copy of SPEED OF LIFE, it’s a wonderful book.
Thanks for stopping by, we hope you enjoyed out chat.

Four Books For Fall

Fall is here; season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The trees are turning gorgeous reds and golds outside my window, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back in Starbucks, and I can break out my cozy socks and snuggly sweaters. I adore this time of year.

One of the best things about the cooler weather is getting to curl up in front of roaring fire, with a mug of hot chocolate and a new book.

These are four books I can’t wait to read this Fall.

 

 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve been waiting for this sequel since the moment I finished the fabulous Six of Crows. My copy is coming form the UK (so it matches) and I’m obsessively checking the mail.

 

Speed of Life by J. M Kelly

I’ve actually read this already, but I can’t wait to read it as a proper book. It’s by my critique partner, the amazing Joëlle Anthony, writing here as J. M Kelly. This is definitely one you want to read.

 

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Adult crime fiction is not normally my first choice of reading material, but it’s by Melina Marchetta, so it’s a must for me.

 

Foxheart by Claire Legrand

I  love the sound of this – a young thief and her loyal dog, encounter a witch in a world where magic is dangerous and forbidden.

 

Friday Five – Five Things I Do Besides Writing 

1) Read

Reading is one of my absolutely favourite things to do. Some of my favourite characters feel like old friends, I love spending time with them. And I never get tired of being transported to different times and places and worlds. 

2) Bake


I’m not that keen on cooking (maybe because I have to do it every day) but I love to bake. 

3) Strength Train

The past month I’ve really got into strength training. My gym runs a class based in the training ballet dancers do and I love it. 

4) Walking the dog

Ever since we got out dog, last year, I’ve come to love our daily walks. I’m really grateful that he gets me out the house twice a day, everyday. Especially in winter, as it would be really tempting to curl up indoors. We walk in the same wood and I love seeing it change as the year progresses. 

5) Crafts

This is more aspirational. I love Pinterest and I wish I could make Pinterest worthy things, but most things I make are a bit wonky 🙂 Luckily my son doesn’t mind and we have fun making stuff together. 
What other things do you do to keep busy?
I’m joining J. M. Kelly (a.k.a Joelle Anthony) in posting a Friday Five every week. Next week’s Friday Five is Five People I’d love to meet. I hope you’ll join in. 

Friday Five – Five things I love about Spring 

The lovely thing about Ottawa is that after the long (and I mean long), cold winter spring arrives overnight. And spring here is the same as an English summer, but with less rain. Yay Canada!

So here’s  the top five things I love about Spring in Ottawa. 

1) Sandels and pretty toes.


2) BBQ’s  & Picnics – As Eind Blyton always said, food tastes better outside. 

3) Tulips. My all time favourite flower. 


4) Pimms. It’s the taste of spring. 
5) Early morning walks with the dog, without having to bundle up in a thousand layers. 


I’m joining J. M. Kelly (a.k.a Joelle Anthony) in posting a Friday Five every week. Next week’s Friday Five is Things I do when I’m not writing. I hope you’ll join in.