Friday, 31 January 2014

Book of the Month: January

 
 
Wake by Anna Hope
 
 
 

Five Days in November, 1920:

As the body of the Unknown Soldier makes its way home from the fields of Northern France, three women are dealing with loss in their own way: Hettie, who dances for sixpence a waltz at the Hammersmith Palais; Evelyn, who toils at a job in the pensions office, and Ada, a housewife who is beset by visions of her dead son. One day a young man comes to her door. He carries with him a wartime mystery that will bind these women together and will both mend and tear their hearts.

A portrait of three intertwining lives caught at the faultline between empire and modernity, Wake captures the beginnings of a new era, and the day the mood of the nation changed for ever.


*     *     *

I was looking forward to reading Wake, but never imagined how quickly it would draw me in - or how quickly I would devour the book. I was instantly hooked and didn't want to put the book down, finishing it within a day. I liked how the story was told over just five days without each day being drawn out. The characters felt very real to me and I warmed to each of them immediately, feeling the emotions and turmoil they were each experiencing.

You can see my full review of Wake next week.

Click here to see all Books of the Month
 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

A Beginner's Guide To Salad & Amazon Voucher Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway or shared it on Twitter and Facebook. Rafflecopter has selected the winners at random and they are:

First Place - ecopy of A Beginner's Guide To Salad, plus Amazon voucher:

Sheena


Runners Up - ecopy of A Beginner's Guide To Salad:

Sharon W &

Michaela B


Congratulations! I hope you enjoy your prizes.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Guest Post: J T Allen

Why Daisy Writes It Herself
by J. T. Allen

In the third chapter of the blog novel MY STUPID JOURNAL, Daisy Tannenbaum tells us this about arriving in Paris to live with her Aunt Millicent:

“My room had a window that looked out onto a cobbled courtyard, where black clouds, like a layer of tar, spread tight over Paris rooftops. It was raining, had been since the Air France jet touched runway. My own room. First time ever.” 


The Chapter is titled “A Room of My Own,” cribbed from Virginia Woolf of course, but it is doubtful whether Daisy, age twelve, knows that. She might. She’s a precocious reader from an academic family, but if she does know, she doesn’t let on.

She goes on to write:

“I’d always been thrown in with my sister, Clymene, as long as I could remember. It’s the most amazing thing, having your own room, your own desk, your own little desk lamp you can turn on and off without anybody biting your head off, even in the middle of the night; and nobody IM-ing all night with their toad boyfriend, keyboard clacking, and nobody sobbing under their covers when the toad doesn’t call; or playing some song over and over again because it reminds them of their toad and how lovely he is or how mean he is, or both, or neither.”

The romantic tribulations of her older sister hold no attraction for Daisy and tend to make her wary of boys, of sex, of growing up. But then she says this:

“That’s not to say I didn’t miss her. That’s the weird part. I really, really, really missed my stupid, messed-up family, including Clymene.”




Daisy is in exile. She is bitter and homesick and confused by her feelings. She wants to hate her sister and family but can’t quite bring herself to do it. As the story proceeds she’ll go on an immense adventure in a fantastic city, full of experiences she could never have imagined, growing into a person she could not have imagined becoming. She’ll never fully resolve this split in her feelings though—loving and missing her family while despising them for sending her away—but hopefully, and this is part of the fun of writing her story in first person, we the reader come to see some of the never-expressed wisdom of her parents, particularly her mother, who recognizes that Daisy is a girl who needs a room of her own.
 

•••• 
 
   


(MY STUPID JOURNAL, the second Daisy Tannenbaum adventure, to be released this summer, can be read in blog form at: http://www.daisytannenbaum.com/. Her first adventure, DAISY AND THE PIRATES, about being stuck on a remote island with her sister, divorced parents, and her dad’s new girlfriend, is now an ebook, available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/17paNuJ) and elsewhere.)

 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A Beginner's Guide To... Ruth


Ruth is the main character from A Beginner's Guide To Salad. She's always been overweight and was bullied as a child because of it. When she receives an invitation to her high school reunion, she’s reluctant to go. Until she hatches a plan to lose weight and shock her former classmates.


Ruth’s parents are Louie and Vera. Her dad is overly enthusiastic about DIY. Her mum is not. Ruth has a brother, Stephen, who lives in New York with his American wife, Aubrey and their three children, Austin, Riley and Ryder.

Ruth works as a PA to Kelvin Shuttleworth, the General Manager of H. Woods Vehicles, a bus and coach manufacturers. She doesn’t always like her job so she takes every opportunity to have a skive and gossip with her friends and colleagues, Erin and Quinn.

In her spare time, Ruth loves nothing more than slouching on the sofa with her housemate and best friend, Billy and a family-sized bar of chocolate.

 
Here a few quick facts about Ruth:



·         Name: Ruth Lynch

·         Age: 28

·         Job: PA

·         Hair colour: Blonde

·         Eye colour: Blue

·         Favourite colour: Anything bright

·         Favourite film: You’ve Got Mail

·         Favourite food: Chocolate

·         Hobbies: watching TV, gossiping and shopping

·         Party trick: Can fit three digestive biscuits in mouth without breaking them
 
*        *       *       *        *
Click for A Beginner's Guide To... Billy & Jared
 
 
 
 
 
A Beginner’s Guide To Salad is available to download now from
Amazon or Smashwords
If you've read the book
, you can leave a review here

Monday, 27 January 2014

Cover Reveal: The Guestbook by Holly Martin

 
Welcome to Willow Cottage – throw open the shutters, let in the sea breeze and make yourself completely at home. Oh, and please do leave a comment in the Guestbook!

As landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider - whatever her colourful array of guests require. A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes through her doors.

This includes Annie herself - especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.

Through the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy, happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling! 

Forget sending postcards saying 'wish you were here' - one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.



The Guestbook is available on 14th February 2014


Cover Reveal: Millie & the American Proposal by Annabel Scott

Today I'm pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Annabel Scott's Millie & the American Proposal

 
Millie’s boyfriend James gets offered a job in Singapore, he accepts, thinking that she’ll give up her job and go with him. Only Millie gets offered a work secondment to New York which is too good an opportunity to turn down. When she arrives in the city, she soon discovers that she’s not the only one new in town; her ex-boyfriend, Rob, is back, and he’s separated from his wife. It’s time for Millie to work out what she wants from life. She’s got to decide whether she’s Team James or Team Rob as she gets her very own American Proposal.


Millie & the American Proposal is available on 11th February.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Cover Reveal: Hopelessly Devoted To Holden Finn by Tilly Tennant

 
'There’s only one man for Bonnie, and that’s Holden Finn.
 
The problem is that Holden Finn is a twenty-three-year-old pop megastar with his boy band, Every Which Way, and has no idea she exists. Not only that, but half the women in the world want to be Mrs Finn, including Bonnie’s teenage daughter, Paige. The real men in Bonnie’s life do nothing but let her down, but a man you can’t possibly have can never do that… right? She’s safe inside her fantasy bubble.
 
Then Paige wins a radio competition to meet Holden and the band, and Bonnie’s carefully-constructed world starts to unravel. She is about to find out that you should be very, very careful what you wish for …'
 
Please check out the cover reveal video...




About Tilly:

Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset but now lives in Staffordshire with her slightly nutty family. Tilly is married to Mr Tennant (not that one, though a girl can dream). She likes nothing better than curling up in a quiet corner with a glass of wine watching the world go by, but can more usually be found taxiing her daughters to parties or taking them on emergency shopping trips. After a huge list of dismal and disastrous jobs over the years, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing, she began working as a temporary secretary in a hospital to boost her income whilst doing a degree in English and creative writing. This job lasted nine years. Not terribly temporary. But it does mean that she knows just what it’s like to make monumental admin cock-ups, spend the month’s wages in the hospital coffee shop and fall in love with all the doctors. As she’s a smug married, however, it’s fortunate that the doctors in question don’t usually feel the same way.

Tilly is represented by the wonderful, gorgeous Peta Nightingale at LAW.


 

Get in touch with Tilly:

Website:
http://tillytennant.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TillyTenWriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7204286.Tilly_Tennant
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TillyTennant?fref=ts

Competition:
WIN a £10 amazon gift voucher by commenting on Tilly's blog with your funniest celebrity crush encounter. Good luck to all who enter!
http://tillytennant.com/



Thursday, 23 January 2014

Giveaway Winners: A Beginner's Guide To Salad + Goodies


Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway or shared it on Twitter and Facebook. Rafflecopter has selected the winners at random and they are:

First Place - ecopy of A Beginner's Guide To Salad, plus goodies

Charlene W

Runners Up - ecopy of A Beginner's Guide To Salad

Kayleigh B &

Lindsay H



Congratulations! I hope you enjoy your prizes.

Don't forget, there is another giveaway still running at the moment to win an Amazon voucher here

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Calling All Authors and Book Bloggers!



Are you an author - either traditionally published or indie? Or perhaps you're a book blogger who'd like to have a jaunt around the blogosphere? Then I'd love to welcome you here.
 
I'm looking mainly for authors or fans of chick lit/women's fiction. If you're interested in appearing on the blog, simply send me an email to jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com with your guest post and the images and links to your book and/or social media so people know where to find you.
 
As a vague guide, guest posts should be around 3-500 words and must be about books or writing. Possible topics could be:
  • inspiration behind your book
  • book titles
  • when you decided to become a writer
  • favourite books/authors
  • favourite childhood book
But feel free to be creative and write about your own topic - as long as it centres around books or writing!
 
If I'm going to use your post, I will email you with a date of when it will go up on the blog. Please make a note of it so you can let your friends and followers know when the time comes and you can also answer any comments that may be left for you.
 
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me at the above address.
 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A Beginner's Guide To Salad: Another Giveaway

 
 
It's been a week since I released A Beginner's Guide To Salad, so time for another giveaway, yes? This time I'm giving away an Amazon voucher plus an ecopy of the book. The voucher will be for £10, or equivalent amount, depending on the location of the winner.
 
There are two runner's up prizes of ecopies of the book up for grabs too.
 
To enter, fill in the rafflecopter form below and leave a comment answering the following question:
 
In A Beginner's Guide To Salad, Ruth's favourite music is cheesy pop (the cheesier, the better). What's your favourite kind of music and/or song?
 
The giveaway is open internationally. The winners will be notified by email and then announced on the blog next Thursday.
 
Good luck!
 


a Rafflecopter giveaway


A Beginner’s Guide To Salad is available to download now from
Amazon or Smashwords
If you've read the book, you can leave a review here

Monday, 20 January 2014

A Beginner's Guide To Salad: The Blog Tour

From today, Ruth, the book and I are going on tour. There are going to be book extracts, Q&As, guest posts, reviews and a giveaway along the way.

 
 
Click to view the blog tour posts
 
 
[Extract: Spinning Class]
 
[Q&A + Extract: Cabbage Soup Diet]
 
[Q&A + Giveaway]
 
[Review]
 
[Inspiration behind A Beginner's Guide To Salad]
 
[Q&A + Review]
 
[Ruth's Top Ten songs]
 
[Choosing Character's Names]
 
[Guest Post: Deciding To Self-Publish
A Beginner's Guide To Salad]
 
 


A Beginner's Guide To Salad is available now
[Amazon UK] [Amazon US]
 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Cover Stars: January





Every month I choose my favourite cover from my TBR pile. This month I have chosen It Felt Like A Kiss by Sarra Manning.

Feel free to comment or add your own suggestions for ‘Cover Stars’.



Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?

 Ellie Cohen has it all. A great job at a swank Mayfair art gallery, loyal mates, loving family and really, really good hair. Well, almost - there's the mega-famous, rock-star father who refuses to acknowledge her and a succession of challenging boyfriends (which she calls 'fixer-uppers', her friends call 'losers'), but nobody's perfect.

Then a vengeful ex sells Ellie's secrets and a pack of lies to the press. Suddenly she's no longer the girl most likely to succeed, but a girl whose world is falling to pieces. For the first time in her life, Ellie can't deal - she's fighting to keep her job, her reputation and her sanity. So it's a relief when David Gold, her father's ruthlessly ambitious lawyer, arrives to manage the crisis - and Ellie. David might be handsome and charming, but he thinks she's a gold-digger and Ellie thinks he's a shark in a Savile Row suit.

 'Strategic damage limitation' aren't the three little words Ellie wants to hear, so it's just as well that falling in love is the last thing on her mind.


I was immediately drawn to the cover of It Felt Like A Kiss, not only because of the silhouette couple (silhouette covers are my favourite), but because of the little details; the London skyline, the pretty railing and the shooting star and aeroplane in the sky. The colours along with the silhouette couple create a cover that is romantic and full of promise.


Click here to see all Cover Stars

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

 
 
Alice Love is happily married to Nick. They've just bought a house, which they are slowly transforming into their dream home, and are expecting their first child.
 
But then Alice wakes up on the floor of the gym after falling and banging her head during a class. Ten years have passed but Alice can't remember a single thing since 1998. Alice is now a 39-year-old mum of three and rather than being head over heels in love, her husband despises her.
 
Alice returns home, to the now completed house and the three children she has no recollection of giving birth to and attempts to piece together the last ten years of her life.
 
I was looking forward to reading What Alice Forgot after reading The Husband's Secret last year but I wasn't prepared to love the book quite as much as I did. I was hooked from the start and really couldn't put it down as it dawned on Alice just how much her life had changed over the last decade. I felt for Alice as she was thrust into motherhood and struggled to come to terms with the state of her marriage. Not only had she forgotten the birth of her children but every single memory of them since and she didn't even have Nick to lean on as he seemingly doesn't even like Alice, never mind love her.
 
As well as Alice, we get to know her sister, Elisabeth. Alice and Elisabeth were once close but there is a definite gulf between them now. Elisabeth has her own struggles in life, which she chronicles in a sort of diary, and my heart went out to her as she pored her fears and feelings onto the page.
 
What Alice Forgot is a rollercoaster of a book, with funny moments alongside more heart-wrenching and poignant ones. I warmed to the characters immediately and devoured the pages to find out what would happen next - as well as what had happened in the past.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Guest Post: Shannon

British Chick Lit

Growing up, my maternal grandmother was one of the most important people in my life. Raised in Canada by her British parents, she had a love for all things England and that is something she passed on to me. She raised me on a steady diet of British television that eventually took over my life, though that is an entire post to itself. We would watch endless hours of television, bond over the Royals, and she is the reason why so many British words are a part of my vocabulary (and continually confuse other people.)

So when I discovered the genre that is British Chick Lit, I felt like I was being called home to a place I’d never been. It opened up that lovely place across the pond even more and now has me constantly dreaming about picking up and moving there in an instant. Safe to say, I’m a little obsessed.

The only problem is, I don’t think I’ll ever be making it across the ocean, or at least not in the near future. So here are some of my favourite books, the ones that make me want to drop everything and run off to England. I only hope that one day when I do make it there, it lives up to the beauty that I’ve built up in my mind through these wonderful stories. 

 
Cupcakes at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown - Georgie Hart sells luxury handbags in a seaside department store which has a café in it that serves red velvet cupcakes with buttercream icing. This is what I imagine all department stores in England are like. Sheer perfection. 



The Beach Café by Lucy Diamond - Evie Flynn escapes her boring life in the city and ends up running her own café in a small village on the English Coast. Just as awesome as a café in a department store. Reading about a woman who runs off to small town definitely makes you want to do the same. 



Summer Daydreams by Carole Matthews - Nell McNamara leaves her job at the chip shop to start her own handbag line. Set in a small town with a local market and chip shop where everyone knows each other, this sounds fantastic. This big city girl dreams of the quieter life. 



I Heart London by Lindsey Kelk - Angela Clark is loving her life in New York but now she has to return home to London. While most of the stories I love seem to be set in small towns or quaint villages, this one takes place in the big city and I loved it. All of the tourist spots are covered and it’s easy to fall in love with the city without having been there. 



Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Abby Clements - Childhood friends Laurie and Rachel are living two very different lives. But circumstances have them switching homes, Rachel heading to London and Laurie off to the countryside. What better book for someone dreaming of starting somewhere new? And the idea of living in a little cottage in Yorkshire is very exciting. 



A Cinderella Christmas by Holly Kingston - Lucy Tilley has a role in the hottest Pantomime in town, with a hot soap hunk and reality television starlet. The only problem is, she’s playing the back end of the comedy cow. While we have Pantos here in Canada, they are definitely not as popular as they are in England. I have always wanted to see a British one, and this book got me as close as I can get (for now.) 



These are only a few of fabulous books I have read over the years that have made British chick lit one of my favourite genres to read. And until I can get there one day, the books and television shows will just have to keep me dreaming.


Shan


Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
http://goodbooksandacupoftea.blogspot.com

Faith Filled Reading
http://faithfilledreading.blogspot.com

@goodbooksandtea on Twitter and Instagram

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Beginner's Guide To Salad: Release Day plus a Giveaway!

 
 
A Beginner's Guide To Salad is now out there! To celebrate, I've put together a goodie pack of Ruth-inspired items. The pack contains:
 
 
  • 3 x ladies socks
  • Mini 2014 diary
  • Mini notebook
  • Pack of Haribo Star Mix
  • Pink nail polish
  • Bar of Galaxy Cookie Crumble
  • Lip Balm
  • Box of Sweet Tarts
  • Pack of gel pens
  • Plus a copy of A Beginner's Guide To Salad (ebook)
 
There are also two runners up prizes of copies of A Beginner's Guide To Salad (ebook).
 
To enter, fill in the Rafflecopter form and leave a comment below.

In the book, Ruth would rather do ANYTHING than exercise (and who can blame her?) so fill in the blanks and tell me what YOU'D rather do than exercise:


I would rather ........ than exercise.

 
 
This is a UK only giveaway but I'll be running another competition next week that will be open internationally.
 
Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here to find out more about A Beginner's Guide To Salad or click here to download from Amazon

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sneak Peek: A Beginner's Guide To Salad

A Beginner's Guide To Salad will be released tomorrow, so I thought I would post a sneak peek of the first couple of chapters so you can see what it's all about. 

PROLOGUE

Ten years ago
Ruth’s hand shook as she applied a coat of the lipstick she’d swiped from her mother’s dressing table. She should have asked to borrow it, really but she never wore make-up and didn’t want anyone to know why she needed to tonight. Vera would have been thrilled her eighteen-year-old daughter was finally going on a date – and that was the problem. It was Ruth’s first date and she wasn’t entirely sure he would show up.
Imagine the humiliation of being stood up and everybody knowing about it!
How did the date go, love? It didn’t. I sat in the restaurant with your too-bright pink lipstick zigzagged across my gob and waited on my own until closing time. Thanks for asking, Mum. Goodnight.
Ruth paused, lipstick hovering in front of her face while she gave her reflection a good talking to. Zack would show up. They had a connection, a real connection, and it didn’t matter that he’d been cruel towards her throughout their school lives. It wasn’t Zack’s fault – everyone had been cruel to her. It was what happened when you were the fat kid. People teased you, they called you names – and inventive ones like Fat Twat (rhyming), The Jelly Green Giant (word play) and Mrs Blobby (Noel Edmonds had a lot to answer for) – and they excluded you from absolutely everything. School had been hell for Ruth. She’d never been physically bullied, but the name-calling had been relentless. She didn’t have any friends, unless you counted her older brother, Stephen and his best friend. Stephen and Billy had always stuck up for Ruth as best as they could, but they were older than Ruth and had moved away to the other side of Manchester for university so she didn’t see them very often anymore.
And they didn’t really count as friends. Ruth knew that deep down.
She wished she had a friend more than anything, even more than she wanted a boyfriend. A real friend to share secrets with, to joke with and to swap make-up tips with. She could use a friend right now, judging by the mess she’d made of her lips. Lipstick was smeared beyond her lip line and was it… yes, it was on her teeth. Panic bubbled from her gut and spread throughout her body. She lifted her wrist to check the time. Relax, relax, relax. Deep breaths. She wasn’t due to meet Zack at the restaurant for another twenty minutes and, as she was already camped out in the restaurant’s loo, she had plenty of time to sort her face out.
After removing the lipstick with a damp tissue, Ruth took a chest-achingly deep breath and tried again, this time smoothing the lipstick over her puckered lips almost perfectly. It needed a touch up here and there, but all in all it was a vast improvement. Shame about the colour, but beggars couldn’t be choosers and all that.
Ruth blew her reflection a kiss before she headed back into the restaurant and to the table the waitress had already seated her at. The restaurant was quiet, with only three other tables occupied but that could have been down to a number of factors: the restaurant being way out of town, the questionable décor and mismatched furniture, or the unidentifiable whiff about the place, which was somewhere between cat piss and BO. But to Ruth it was perfect. This was the setting of her first date and with Zack O’Connell too. Zack had been the most popular boy in her year and she’d always had an (obviously unrequited) crush on him. Zack had mostly ignored her during their fourteen-year acquaintance and when he had spoken to her, it was only to throw jibes her way. It had been only a few weeks ago that he’d snarled ‘fuck off, fatso’ when she’d asked him to sign her shirt on their last day of school, but here she was, waiting for him to wine and dine her.
Wasn’t it funny how life worked out? How a simple walk through the park with your elderly neighbour’s dog could change your life. Ruth hadn’t expected to run into Zack and his friends in the park and when she had, she’d turned and stumbled away in the opposite direction. But Zack had caught up with her and asked if they could talk.
Talk? Zack wanted to talk to her?
Of course she’d been suspicious. She wasn’t stupid. But it turned out Zack had been dumped by his beautiful and equally popular girlfriend and he couldn’t talk to his friends about it. They were all idiots. They didn’t have feelings, not mature ones that didn’t involve their dicks anyway.
‘Sasha dumped you? But why?’ Sasha Bloom had been the most popular girl at school and she and Zack made an obscenely gorgeous couple. Ruth had always known she was a superficial bitch, but she’d never suspected Sasha could be so dumb. Why on earth would any girl dump Zack?
‘She’s going away to uni and doesn’t want to be tied down to a boyfriend.’ Zack’s head was hung low and Ruth wanted to reach out to touch him, to offer him some sort of comfort. But she didn’t dare. ‘Can we meet up and talk properly? Tomorrow?’
She’d said yes. She wasn’t a fool. They’d met and talked – not only about Sasha but about everything. It had been amazing, like having a real friend, and the afternoon flew by too quickly. Suddenly meeting up with Zack seemed cruel. It had given her a taste of what friendship was like, but was now being snatched away.
But then he’d asked her out. On a date. In a restaurant and everything.
Ruth prayed he’d turn up.
Not normally a fiddler, Ruth found herself toying with the condiments on the table, reading the sticky, faded label on the bottle of vinegar and spinning the pepper pot on its rounded top. It seemed her stomach was having a bit of a party, twisting and jiving as she waited on her wobbly chair. She doubted she’d be able to eat a thing when Zack did arrive – both minor miracles as far as Ruth was concerned.
The door opened and Ruth turned in her seat, her sickly-pink mouth gaping as she saw Zack striding towards her. He was wearing the leather jacket she’d always thought he looked hot in and she gave her thigh a good pinch to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
‘Zack, hi!’ What did she do now? Did she stand up to greet him? Before she could make a decision, Zack had thrown himself into the seat opposite.
‘Hey. You look nice.’
Ruth’s cheeks turned as pink as her lipstick at the compliment. She was beginning to believe he really did like her. That was the second compliment he’d given her since they’d struck up their friendship, having already told her she’d be beautiful if she lost the weight. Nobody had ever told her she was beautiful, unless you counted her parents, which Ruth did not.
‘Thanks. So do you. I like your jacket.’ Ruth wanted to reach out and stroke the leather, to throw her face into its collar and smell it. She sat on her hands to take away the temptation.
‘Shall we order then?’
Ruth nodded, though her appetite had deserted her. She couldn’t imagine ever feeling hunger again. Although, when her pizza arrived, oozing with extra cheese, it did smell divine. Zack had no qualms about eating and immediately set about shovelling his food into his mouth. Ruth watched him for a moment, wondering whether he would pause long enough to chat. Or even chew.
‘How do you think you’ve done in your exams?’ It was an inane question, but Ruth couldn’t think of anything else to say and their date was turning out to be more like feeding time at the zoo. They’d recently sat their A Level exams and would be picking up their results in less than a week.
‘Dunno.’ Ruth looked away as Zack flashed his food as he spoke.
‘I think I’ve done alright. No As or anything, but I think I’ve done enough to get on my course.’
‘Yeah?’
‘I hope so.’ Nervous laughter seeped from her lips. It was true that she was in no way experienced when it came to dates but she had imagined it would be different to this. More romantic. And with more conversation. ‘Zack, are you really over Sasha?’ The question was out of Ruth’s mouth seemingly before she’d even thought it and she took a huge bite of pizza to keep her from saying anything else moronic.
‘Yeah, course I am. Why?’
Ruth chewed and chewed at the pizza, wishing she hadn’t shoved quite so much into her mouth. Unlike Zack, she couldn’t bring herself to talk with her mouth full.
‘It’s just that I like you. I have for ages.’ Ruth suspected she was in love with Zack O’Connell but then most girls in her year had been and so she kept it to herself.
‘I like you too.’
Ruth’s mouth spread into a wide smile until half of her face was made up of Barbie-pink lipstick. ‘Really?’
‘Really.’ Still chewing, Zack dropped his cutlery with a clang. ‘Come here and I’ll prove it.’
Ruth leant across the table, eyes squeezed shut and lips puckered. Her first kiss was heavenly and she only wished she had a friend she could gush over the details with later. She wasn’t quite sure about Zack’s tongue swirling round and round her mouth like a washing machine on a fast spin but she was sure she’d get used to it with a bit of practice.
Ruth was so busy savouring the sensation of Zack’s warm lips on hers that she wasn’t aware of the commotion as half a dozen teenagers clattered into the restaurant, pointing and jeering.
‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you actually did it!’
‘You’re a sick bastard.’
‘That’s fucking gross, man.’
Zack’s lips wrenched away from hers and as his body slumped back into his seat, Ruth took in the scene around her. Zack’s friends were heading towards them, led by Sasha Bloom.
‘Oi, fat bitch. Who said you could touch my boyfriend?’ She cackled as Brad, Zack’s best friend, stepped closer and slapped Zack on the back.
‘What was it like?’
Zack swiped at his mouth with the sleeve of his lovely leather jacket. ‘Like sucking a marshmallow.’
‘I bet you enjoyed it really,’ Ryan, another friend, jeered from within the crowd. ‘You looked well into it.’
‘Was I fuck.’ Zack jumped out of his seat, grabbed a fistful of chips and turned to face his mates. ‘You all owe me fifty quid. Each.’
And then they were gone, Zack and Sasha arm in arm, everybody laughing and ribbing Zack. Ruth watched them leave, refusing to move from her seat even as she realised Zack had left her with the bill. It had all been a joke. Nothing but a prank and the opportunity for Zack to make a bit of cash. He didn’t like Ruth. She was nothing but a freak show.
Ruth took a bite of her pizza but it lodged in her throat, a great big clump that refused to go down. Ruth’s lips became a thin pink line and she squeezed her eyes shut, but it was too late and a tidal wave of tears poured down her cheeks and plopped onto her stuffed crust.
 

ONE

Ruth
Is there anything more joyous than glancing at the clock and realising you have a mere five minutes until you can go home? My mood shifted up a gear as I clicked print and swivelled in my chair to scoop up the document. There wasn’t much point in starting anything new this late in the day so I stapled the document, slipped it into its file and shut down my computer. Freedom was just four minutes away.
I was preparing for the journey home, touching up my lipstick, running a brush through my hair (you never know who you’re going to run into on the bus), when the phone shrilled beside me, the sudden noise almost causing a catastrophic smear of fuchsia up to my ear. Snapping the lid back onto my lipstick, I snatched up the receiver, knowing exactly who was phoning me at three minutes to five. Gideon. Cancelling our date tonight. At the last minute, yet again.
‘Good afternoon, Kelvin Shuttleworth’s office, how may I help you?’
Of course I’d wanted to snap at my useless, unreliable boyfriend but I had to be professional. At least until I knew for certain that it was Gideon. I’d fallen into that trap once too often. The last time it had happened, I’d roared ‘what the bum fluff do you want this time?’ into the receiver after he’d phoned me seven times in six minutes. Seriously, if you have a memory like a goldfish, make a list of the topics you want to cover and then phone me. Did he think I sat at my desk doing nothing all day (I did mostly, but that’s not the point here), waiting for his scintillating calls? By this, the eighth call, I was pretty narked.
‘It had better be urgent or I swear I’m going to twist your bollocks until they ping off.’
Luckily it had only been Glenn from Accounts on the other end and not somebody really important otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk right now. I’d be in the dole queue. So I answered politely now, just in case.
‘You can help me by getting your arse in my office. Pronto.’
The phone call ended abruptly and I checked the time. Three minutes to go and Kelvin was calling me into his office? Why was I even surprised? I’d worked for Kelvin Shuttleworth, General Manager, General Lazy Bastard and General Sleaze of H. Wood Vehicles for long enough to know he didn’t give a toss about my free time. I’m sure he was under the impression I continually camped out under my desk awaiting new and exciting tasks.
‘Yes, Kelvin?’ I stood on the brink of the threshold, still on my side of the door, still ready to flee home.
‘I want four copies of this.’ He stabbed a thick wad of paper on his desk with a finger, not even bothering to pass it to me, lest he wear out his fat sausage fingers in the process. ‘And I’ll have a coffee.’
I flicked my eyes up to the clock on the opposite wall. Yes, it displayed the same time as the clock in my own office next door and it was in full view of Kelvin. ‘But it’s three minutes to five.’ Not even that. More like two minutes and twenty-nine seconds. ‘May I remind you that I finish at five?’
‘May I remind you that you don’t clock in and out?’ I’d have to remind him of that fact when I rocked up at half past nine the following morning. ‘May I also remind you that I have not forgotten your mishap with the photocopier?’
No, I didn’t photocopy my arse. It would have been beyond repair if I’d somehow managed to perch my fat derrière on top of the photocopier and, as it turned out, it only took the repair man a couple of hours to fix it after I booted the hell out of it. You’d have done the same, I’m sure. It had been taking the piss all morning and then decided to chew up the pages in the middle of a 100-page document I was photocopying for an important meeting that afternoon. Not only did the pages refuse to come loose from the mechanism inside, I broke two nails while trying to free them. That had been the final straw.
‘Do I need to show you the repair bill?’ Kelvin made to reach into his desk drawer, even though I knew it wasn’t kept in there. I did his filing for him, after all. The only things Kelvin kept in his desk drawer were a bottle of whiskey, an emergency Mars bar and an envelope containing several saucy photos of a woman half his age, who definitely wasn’t his wife.
‘That won’t be necessary.’ I grabbed the wad of papers, which must have been at least fifty pages. The photocopier had better be on its best behaviour otherwise it’d be me cancelling my date with Gideon for a change.
‘Don’t forget the coffee.’
Of course not, sir. We wouldn’t want you dying of thirst. Or getting off your arse and making it yourself.
Dumping the document on my desk, I headed over to the staff kitchen. I say ‘kitchen’ but it was little more than a walk-in cupboard with a kettle, tiny sink and a fridge squeezed inside. I made Kelvin’s usual coffee with full-fat milk, three sugars and four chocolate digestives on the side.
‘There you are. Ooh, biccies.’ Erin reached her slender fingers towards the saucer and grabbed one of the biscuits. ‘Are you ready to go?’
I shook my head as I replaced the biscuit and explained the situation. I’d known Erin for three years, since I started working at H. Woods, a bus and coach manufacturers. We’d hit it off immediately, even though we couldn’t have been more different, with Erin being slim and gorgeous with a dark and sleek Cleopatra sweep of hair while I was house-sized, ok-looking if you squinted enough and with short blonde curls. Erin was also a bit of a goer while I was chaste (not by choice, I should add. It’s quite a challenge to be a slut when you’re house-sized).
‘You should have told him to piss off. It’s after five.’ Erin swiped another biscuit and I swallowed the urge to stab her with a teaspoon.
‘I can’t. He brought up the photocopier.’
‘That was weeks ago. Is he going to hold you to ransom forever?’
‘Probably.’ I batted Erin’s hand away as she lunged for another biscuit. How the hell did she stay rake-thin?
‘Do you want me to stay behind with you?’
‘Nah.’ There was no point in us both losing part of our evening.
‘Good, because I’ve got a date with Christian.’ I gave Erin a blank look. I honestly couldn’t keep up with all the men she dated. ‘The gorgeous bloke from my salsa class.’ Of which there were many, according to Erin, and therefore failed to narrow it down. ‘He brings his girlfriend every week? The red-head bitch who kicked my ankle a few weeks ago?’ Ah, yes. Salsa was an extreme sport where Erin was concerned, what with her flirting with every man under the age of sixty. ‘Well, he turned up alone last week. His girlfriend broke her ankle – how’s that for irony? – and I talked him into taking me out.’
‘You’ve no shame.’
‘Nope.’ Erin grinned and swiped another biscuit before sauntering towards the staircase, waving a hand as she went.
Not bothering to replace yet another biscuit (it was nearly tea time and, well, I just couldn’t be bothered), I carried the coffee through to an ungracious Kelvin before making a start on the photocopying. Luckily for both the photocopier and me, all went smoothly until I handed Kelvin the four documents. He didn’t take them, simply nodded at his in-tray.
‘Stick them in there. It’s getting late. I’ll deal with them tomorrow.’
I can’t tell you how much I wanted to stick the documents in a far more unpleasant orifice than Kelvin’s in-tray, but I restrained myself. Violence towards the photocopier was one thing, violence towards the general manager was another, however justified.
‘Couldn’t I have photocopied them in the morning?’ I really couldn’t help myself. My gob had a mind of its own at times.
‘I suppose you could have, yes.’ Kelvin glanced up from his computer screen. I could tell he’d been playing solitaire by the frantic clicking of his mouse. ‘But I didn’t realise how long it would take you to complete a simple task.’
I clasped my hands behind my back and clamped my lips together, determined to neither throttle my employer nor say something I wouldn’t regret but would certainly lose my job over.
‘I’ll see you in the morning then.’
‘Hmm.’ Click, click, click. He was back to losing at solitaire.
The bus was late as usual, packed and sweaty with disgruntled commuters (of which I was most definitely one), meaning I had to stand for the entire journey in heels. I always wore heels, whatever the occasion. I’d already been cursed with being fat – I didn’t want to be fat and stumpy, resembling a Weeble, and so my feet had to make the ultimate sacrifice. Still, my shoes were pretty fab that day – grey leopard-print lace-up ankle boots with a massive heel. They went perfectly with my knee-length charcoal dress overlaid with paler grey lace. To brighten the look (I did like to be bright, to show off my curves, rather than hide them away), I wore a pair of canary yellow cable and rib tights and chunky yellow beads around my throat and wrists.
The bus ride seemed to take forever, pausing at every stop to pile yet more disgruntled commuters on board, upping the sweaty, stuffy atmosphere. The others were already settled at home by the time I arrived. The ‘others’ being my housemates, Billy and Theo, and by ‘settled’, I mean they were camped out in the sitting room, eyes glued to the television screen while they hammered at the Playstation pads in their hands.
‘Theo?’ I remained in the doorway, afraid to enter. ‘Why are you nearly naked?’
Theo, wearing just a pair of boxers and holey socks, didn’t tear his eyes away from the TV. ‘I’ve got no clean clothes.’
‘What about the clothes you wore to work?’ Please let him have worn clothes to work.
‘They’re in the washing basket. I spilled a pint over them at lunchtime.’
Ah. ‘Spilled’ in the case of Theo translated as ‘propositioned a lady and was impolitely turned down’.
‘Do you mind sticking the washing on for me?’
I told Theo where he could stick his washing. I’d had enough of being a skivvy for one day.
‘There’s some post for you. I’ve left it in the hall,’ Billy called after me as I stalked away, muttering to myself about lazy bastard men.
 
By some miracle, Gideon didn’t cancel our date and so I met him at Cosmo’s, a restaurant around the corner from my house. I’d been seeing Gideon for about eight months and, while he was a bit of a slob and a bit of a moron, he’d do. At least he wanted me and what was the alternative? Sitting on my own night after night?
‘Ruthie! Ciao dolcezza.’ It wasn’t Gideon who greeted me so enthusiastically, kissing me on each cheek, but Cosmo, the owner of the restaurant. Don’t worry. He wasn’t some sort of sleaze who pounced on all his female clientele. I’d known Cosmo for about ten years, even living with him for the briefest time (though not in any sort of sexual context).
‘Is he here?’ I asked as I removed my jacket.
Cosmo tried not to pull a face but it was difficult and he was forced to turn his grimace into a smile, purely for my benefit. ‘He’s at the bar.’
‘Pissed, I presume.’
‘Getting there. Shall I show you to your table?’
We picked Gideon up en route, sitting at a table in a cosy corner of the restaurant. I ordered quickly, eager to tell Gideon my news. I’d taken my post upstairs with me so I could read it while I was getting ready and discovered an invitation to the Ultimate Highmoor Reunion. Highmoor was my old school, a great big building of misery for me but soon it would be no more. Highmoor was being bulldozed to make way for a shiny new academy and so a reunion was being held during the summer for all pupils who had attended during its sixty-year lifespan.
I was horrified to begin with and felt a bit queasy at the thought of having to face all the people who had made my life so depressing, all the people who had jibed and poked fun at me and were truly horrible and nasty, dismissing me purely because I was fat. The worst part would be facing Zack, my first love. I hadn’t seen Zack in ten years, since he’d pretended to like me for a practical joke and shattered my delicate, teenage heart into a million pieces.
My first instinct was to tear up the invitation but something stopped me. I could go to the reunion with my head held high, my boyfriend on my arm, and show them all that I wasn’t the same loser I once was. I wasn’t alone anymore. I had a boyfriend – even if it was Gideon. I phoned the number on the invitation before I could change my mind and purchased two tickets. Now all I had to do was tell Gideon about the reunion and somehow talk him into wearing a suit, or a clean shirt at the very least.
‘It’s not working out, is it?’ Gideon asked before our starter had arrived and before I had the chance to bring up the reunion.
‘What isn’t?’
‘You and me. Us.’
Oh, God. I was being dumped. By Gideon.
What about the reunion?


 
So that's A Beginner's Guide To Salad, which will be available now.

Download from
Amazon or Smashwords
If you've read the book, you can leave a review here