Thursday, 27 November 2014

Book of the Month: November

The Extraordinary Journey of
The Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe
Romain Puertolas
Armed only with a fake 100-Euro note, Ajatashatru the fakir arrives in Paris.

His mission? To acquire a new bed of nails. His destination? IKEA.

Once there he finds an obliging wardrobe in which to lay his head, only to discover on waking that he is locked in, covered in bubble-wrap and headed for England in the back of a truck.

So begins a magnificent adventure, as our fakir travels to Italy in a suitcase, writes a novel on a shirt, flees a revenge-crazed taxi driver, flies to Libya in a hot air balloon and finds love in the unlikeliest of places.

*     *     *     *     *

The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe is the quirkiest title of a book that I've read in 2014 - and possibly ever. And the quirky title suits the book completely! I wasn't sure how I was going to get on with the book to begin with as it's all a bit strange but I soon grew to love the style of Romain Puertolas' writing and his main character, Ajatashatru. He's quite a naïve character and finds himself in some pretty bizarre situations and I found that I was rooting for him all the way! It's such a fun book with lots of laugh-out-loud moments and crazy scenarious - I loved it!

You can see my full review of the book over on Novelicious here
Click here to see all 'Books of the Month' 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

#AmWriting Christmassy Things

I love Christmas, from decorating the tree, to festive crafts and watching films with my family. I also love a good Christmassy book so I decided to write a Christmas novella for 2015. I've just finished writing the first draft and loved getting to know a brand new set of characters (and also seeing a familiar face once again as they made a festive return). I've never written a novella before (A Beginner's Guide To Christmas, which I wrote last year, is only around 8,000 words so it's more like a short story) so it was good to try something new. Of course, I had to listen to my favourite festive radio station - North Pole Radio - to make sure that I was truly in the Christmas spirit as I wrote!

I've also been working on my Christmas short story for 2014. Since I started this blog in 2011, I've been posting a festive short story each year. I haven't always been a fan of writing short stories as I found them quite difficult, but I'm growing to like them more and more and it's good to practice!

So far, I've posted Christmas Spirit, Christmas Eve In New York and A Fairytale Christmas (click to view each story. If you want to, obviously) and this year I will be posting A Box of Christmas Chocolates. It's a sequel to a short story I posted at Easter (The Chocolate Box) so it was nice to catch up with Kat and see what she's up to this Christmas. I'll be posting the story in a couple of weeks so I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

My Festive Reads: Emma Crowley

Today I'm delighted to welcome Emma Crowley onto the blog to share the five festive books she's most looking forward to this year and to take part in a festive Q&A!

Hi , my name is Emma Crowley. I live in Waterford in the southeast of Ireland. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember and can get through three or four books a week if time allows. I often do guest reviews at . I’m a primary school teacher teaching junior infants in my old primary school and this time of year is so special teaching four and five year olds preparing for nativity plays and becoming so excited absorbing all their enthusiasm for Santa and Christmas. I’m also on Twitter @emthebookworm if any wants to chat. Many thanks to Jennifer for having me as part of her festive feature.

The five Christmas Reads I am looking forward to this year are:

· The Christmas Surprise: Jenny Colgan.

· The Christmas Party: Carole Matthews.

· Secret Santa : Scarlett Bailey.

· Christmas in the Snow: Karen Swan.

· The Great Christmas Knit Off: Alexandra Brown.

Festive Q&A

What do you look for in a festive read?

Festive books have become so popular over the past number of years so much so that I have to start my festive reading in November in order to try and get everything read during the Christmas season. For a festive read I don’t want anything too heavy or too long because I find I tend to often dip in and out of books at this time of year. I don’t mind if Christmas is not mentioned the whole time in the book but it is frustrating when a book claims to be a festive read and Christmas or anything to do with it is then hardly mentioned at all. I want something that will take me away to a whole new setting and give me a warm feeling inside and get me in the mood for all the activities, traditions and customs associated with Christmas. A nice romance element doesn’t go amiss either.

What is your favourite festive book of all time?

Just for Christmas: Scarlett Bailey. I know this was only released last year but Scarlett Bailey writes so well and totally transports the reader away from their ordinary lives to the wonderful village of Poldore. I fell in love with the varied cast of characters and the real sense of community spirit they all had and how they would do anything to help each other. Alex was a great main character and it was nice to see a woman doing an unusual job for once, she wasn’t your usual run of the mill chick-lit character and neither was the plotline. Boy – the dog just stole the show and a piece of my heart. This was definitely a book where I lost all sense of time and place as the hours flew by as I was engrossed in the comings and goings of the villagers. I’ve also read the follow up ‘ Two Weddings and a Baby ‘which was just as good and I can’t wait to read the festive novella ‘Secret Santa’. I only hope Scarlett Bailey continues to write about Poldore and make the books into a long running series as I always have a feeling of regret and sadness when I turn the last page and leave the characters behind.

If you could spend Christmas with any fictional character, who would it be?

Rosie Hopkins from Jenny Colgan’s ‘ Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop’. Who wouldn’t want to open their own sweet shop in a small village and serve their community? This book has a real good factor to it and I devoured it within a day. Jenny Colgan is another author who has discovered her niche and is sticking to it very successfully as I’m sure I’m not the only one who eagerly awaits her next release. I just fell completely in love with Rosie and her story and how she wanted to help everyone whilst also making a success once again of her aunt’s sweetshop. Throughout the book I was rooting for Rosie to get her happy ending. If I was to spend a Christmas with Rosie I’m sure she would keep me entertained even if we were snowed in her tiny village!
Do you have any favourite festive reading snacks?

Like most people I love chocolate and at this time of year there is an abundance on offer. I like dipping into Roses and Quality Street. In the staffroom where I teach we always get tins sent in from the beginning of December so we are thoroughly spoilt. Some of my other favourite snacks are definitely a Terry’s Chocolate Orange or for pure indulgence I go for those Danish butter cookies you get in the circular tin one just never seems to be enough. Whilst I am eating them I am often saying to myself you can walk it all off over the holidays. I can’t forget a good tube of Pringles or lastly Tayto cheese and onion crisps these are Irish made but are totally addictive.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

I suppose my Christmas traditions are the same as most other families and we don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Every year we have the same relations out to Christmas dinner and we go to mass as a family. I remember when myself and my sister were small our parents insisted we go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Nowadays this is normally around 9 o’clock but back then it was actually midnight and we struggled to stay awake until then. I was always worried that Santa would have come while we were at mass and that we should have been at home tucked up in our beds. Needless to say when we woke up the next morning our presents were always there.

What is your best Christmas memory?

I always remember being fast asleep on Christmas Eve and I woke up because I had heard something outside on the landing . I was so small I thought Santa was coming into my room and if I looked and saw him that no presents would be there waiting for me in the morning. So I hid deep under the covers and kept my eyes closed in the hope I wouldn’t see him. I remember waking up the next morning with my little sister and there waiting for me was everything I had asked for from Santa but most special of all was a rocking horse which I had really wanted .It was white with a rainbow mane and to me then it was just the best thing ever and I can still remember to this day what fun I had.

What is your favourite Christmas song?

It mightn’t be the most obvious choice but I love ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues. Whenever it comes on the radio at Christmas time be it at home or in the car I turn up the radio and blast out the song and sing along. It gives me goose bumps when I hear it and the first time I hear it each year I know that Christmas is on the way.

What is your favourite Christmas film?

There are loads to choose from but whenever I see The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in the tv listings, I just have to watch it. The scene where Cameron arrives in England for the first time and has to make her way to the beautiful cottage in the snow is fabulous. The whole setting of the small rural cottage and village just gives me such a warm feeling inside. Jude Law isn’t half bad to look at either. I know once I have seen this film the Christmas season has well and truly begins for me.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

After such a hard first term in school and endless preparations for the infant nativity play I have to admit to really looking forward to a good break where I can just rest and relax, eat plenty of Roses and Quality Street and of course catch up on plenty of reading especially all the excellent Christmas themed books being released this year. Last year my sister was away in Australia so it will be far nicer having her back this year as we will all be together as a family once again. It wasn’t the same without her last year. Also where I live in Waterford we have a huge winter festival called Winterval which runs from the end of November right up until to the New Year so I will enjoy the opportunity to check out all that it has to offer. It really brings the city alive with lots to do-christmas stalls, carriage rides, ferris wheel, ice skating and lots more.
My Festive Reads is a feature celebrating all things bookish with a festive theme. If you would like to take part, please get in touch! You can find all the details here
Click here to view all My Festive Reads posts

Monday, 24 November 2014

Ruth's Guide To Christmas Outfits

 Ruth likes to dress up so Christmas is the perfect time for shopping! She'd like to share her favourite outfits this season.
There are so many things happening during the festive season, from office parties, to socialising with friends and family and, of course, the main event of Christmas dinner. I've been doing a lot of shopping to make sure I have outfits for every eventuality. Here are my favourites:
Event: Office Party
I love this dress, with its floral lace pattern and skirt that is ideal for dancing (think of the twirls). I'd team it with these gorgeous silver/black platform court shoes
Event: drinks with friends
I love wearing dresses and I adore prints, so this dress is perfect for meeting up with friends for a few festive drinks!
I'd team it up with a pair of knee-length boots and a purple satin clutch bag to add a bit of bling

Event: Christmas Dinner
I like to feel comfortable on Christmas Day (especially after I've stuffed myself with my mum's gorgeous turkey with all the trimmings. Plus Christmas pudding. And chocolate) so I'll be wearing this tunic. I love the colour and the sequin detail adds a bit of festive sparkle
I'd team the tunic with leggings and some glittery peep-toe heels to add a bit more sparkle (you can never have too much sparkle at Christmas!)
Event: The Whole Festive Period
Everybody needs a festive jumper! I love this Rudolph jumper with pom-pom nose from Yours Clothing.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas - whatever you're wearing!
A Beginner's Guide To Christmas is a free festive short story. It's available to download from Amazon here
If you've read A Beginner's Guide To Christmas, I'd love to hear what you thought about the story. You can leave a review on Amazon or on Goodreads
Click here to see all Book Extras for A Beginner's Guide To Christmas

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A New Member of The Joyce Family!

On Thursday evening, we welcomed a new addition to our family - meet Luna, our gorgeous puppy!

We've been wanting to get a dog for quite a while and are so glad Luna is finally with us. She's a lovely little dog who's favourite past times are licking people and sleeping. Most of the photos we have of her are of her taking a nap!
Our daughters chose her name, so we were surprised when she wasn't named Elsa or Olaf!

Luna has settled in really well. We love her already!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Guest Post: Marissa Tejada

I’d like to welcome Marissa Tejada who is the author of the newly released romantic comedy Chasing Athens. She’s here to talk about the inspiration behind her chick-lit/women’s fiction novel that takes place in Greece.   

A Big Move, A Big Break-Up and A Big-Choice

Some of my favorite contemporary novels have whisked me away to fantastic settings and destinations that I loved reading about just as much as the story or characters themselves. As an expat living in Greece I couldn’t help but be inspired to write Chasing Athens. It wasn’t just the beauty of Greece. It was about the life Greece gave me. I found myself picking up the pieces after my divorce in a foreign country. If that wasn’t hard enough I was going through culture shock, learning a new language and reshaping my career in the process. It was a combination that taught me more than I could imagine. Top that all off with a crippling economic crisis that led to riots and protests where I lived in the heart of the city. After my breakup I decided that I wanted to stay on in Greece and looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Plotting and Place

As I plotted Chasing Athens, I knew I wanted to tell a story that was about the importance of place in our lives and how it can truly affect us. My novel follows the story of 30-year-old Ava Martin, an American expat living in Athens, who suddenly finds herself wondering where she truly belongs after her husband walks out on her. What happens next leads her through a humorous, touching and cultural journey that forces her to confront her disappointing past and redefine the true meaning of home.

Much of my novel takes place in the Greek capital. It’s a place of contrasts where your surroundings can cross to each extreme including old and new, ancient and modern to fast and slow. However, it’s a place that owns its distinct Mediterranean vibe and character. Then I included two favorite islands of mine, Hydra and Mykonos. Hydra is a short ferry ride away from Athens which makes it one of those ideal getaways for Athenians and travelers alike – romantic, quaint and picturesque. Mykonos is adorned with its picturesque whitewashed architecture and laced with pretty beaches. It’s also famous for its cosmopolitan nightlife which contributes to the fact that it is one of the most visited islands in Greece. The city and the islands inspired me and I added them as “characters” that fit in well with the drama I wanted my character to go through.

Greece as Inspiration

Greece has always been a fantastic setting for me when reading novels. After my firsthand experiences I felt I could portray its outward beauty and its imperfections. With its pluses and minuses, pros and cons Athens could be any place we choose to live or visit. My “any place” happened to be a place called Greece. Greece inspired me and the direction of my first novel. Greece is also a place that changed my life.

You can find Chasing Athens on Amazon US and Amazon UK among other sites. Feel free to connect with Marissa on Twitter @tejadamarissa, Facebook and on all sorts of social media via her website and travel blog:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

My Festive Reads: A Fictional Christmas Dinner

I've read a lot of great books this year with some brilliant characters, so I thought it would be fun to put together a guest list of fictional characters to invite over for a fun and festive Christmas dinner!
Jess, Ed, Nicky and Tanzie
from The One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
I loved The One Plus One earlier in the year and thought that Jess, daughter Tanzie and stepson Nicky made a brilliant, if slightly dysfunctional family. Add in their new friend Ed and the smelly but loveable dog Norman and you've got yourself some pretty great guests.
You can see my review of The One Plus One here
Alex and Holly
from The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me by Jimmy Rice and Laura Tait
Best friends Alex and Holly would bring a lot of fun to the Christmas dinner. Plus, Holly already has a festive name, upping the Christmassy atmosphere.
You can see my review of The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me here 
Romily and Posie
from Dear Thing by Julie Cohen
Romily is pretty impulsive but also fun and she has a big heart so I think she would make a fantastic guest for my Christmas dinner. Her daughter Posie could also keep Tanzie company!
You can see my review of Dear Thing here 
from A Place To Call Home by Carole Matthews
Crystal would bring so much fun to the table! Crystal is funny and daring as well as being a great friend. I bet she'd have some stories to keep everybody entertained!
You can see my review of A Place To Call Home here 
from No-one Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday by Tracy Bloom
Like Crystal, Ben would bring a lot of fun. He doesn't have a serious bone in his body!
You can see my review of No-One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday here 
Who would you invite to your fictional Christmas dinner? Let us know and take part in My Festive Reads! You can find all the details here

Click here to view all My Festive Reads posts