Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: Bella's Christmas Bake Off

3 Christmas baubles for Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson
Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.  
But this year things are going to be different.  
For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.  
Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…  
After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…  
A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of ChristmasSource: Goodreads

I was kindly given a copy through Netgalley, with many thanks to the author and publisher.

Bella's Christmas Bake Off is about two old friend reuniting after Amy found out that Bella has been using some of their childhood memories for her own benefit, she finds a way to reconnect with Bella to set things right. The two woman won't realise how much they have in common with each other until they finally are honest with each other again.
Can Christmas heal old wounds and cause the bond between these two people to grow again?

This story has some really strong and very Christmassy topics which it creates a story around. Over all I enjoyed reading this book but I did struggle to feel the Christmas spirit. Not that I expect every Christmas book to overload me with the need of drinking hot chocolate, putting the tree up begin November and start baking mince pies (or maybe I do want a book to do that to me...., let's be honest). But with a cover and a title like this, I expected to be overwhelmed by the Christmas soul and spirit, which I felt wasn't as much. And again, I'm not saying that's a band thing, I think I had some different expectations about this book.
However Amy and Bella have a nice relationship and I liked the characters throughout the story.

Personally I found it quite predictable and there was no surprise element to it as I managed to predict most 'plot twists' pages before it got revealed. As a reader I still like to be surprised by the unexpected revelation or twist and I felt like this lacked a little bit.

A Christmas story about friendship, family and appreciating good food.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The One Where I Hope for a Rejection.

It's been a while since I talked about that little book I've been writing.
The last time I made a blog post about this baby of mine I still had a long way of editing to go.
I was lucky enough to find my own fairy godmother and she offered to read through the document and give me some honest feedback and pointers. With that help I managed to make a few more critical changes and finally felt like all the puzzle pieces had fallen in its place.

So for the first time I felt like I could dare taking the step towards putting my file up for submission.
Only the timing wasn't all that perfect. Right after I finished editing, I started an internship for university and had some crazy busy work hours. I was forced to put everything on hold in order to make sure I would pass. This internship was one out of two (the second one is starting the coming week), so I'm still on a blogging low until January.
Anyway, I found some time to eventually ready my document for submission and braved that scary first step.
For someone who has been writing within the safe environment of her own room and has barely shared her stories for the past 2 years, this was a rather scary step. I used to share my stories with others but it has become more and more a thing for myself. Making that submission was nerve-wracking, it took me almost all day because I was freaking out over every little step I had to go through.

But then I finally pressed that submit button and let it sink in.

They said it would take between 3-5 weeks before I would get a reply, so that's when the real misery began. I was constantly refreshing my inbox in that first week (even tough I knew it would be at least 3 weeks) and then I started refreshing even more once I reached that 3 week mark.
It was a good thing that I had my internship so I had something to keep me busy because as the weeks passed I still hadn't gotten a reply and with every passing day, or every passing week, I started to become more desperate.
The week 5 mark passed and I still hadn't heard anything. It's been 7 weeks now and still nothing. I have reached that point now where I would be okay if they had rejected my story. But if that's the case then I would like them to let me know in some automatic generated e-mail explaining me that they rejected it.
That way I can finally stop secretly hoping and wondering if maybe something went wrong with the submission.
So, I look to you publishing world and ask to please send me a rejection mail if you are not interested!

Unless, obviously, you did like it. Then please jump in my arms and declare your undying love for my novel.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Favourite 10 Writing Gadgets

The month of NaNoWriMo is upon us again and before I create a post in which I talk about this year's experience. I thought I'd share some of my top 10 writing gadgets that I use not only to overcome the NaNoWriMo month but some of which I also use on a daily basis as I work on my stories.

1. A good writing program.
I use a combination of Word and Scrivener.
For most of the writing I have done in the past 10 years I have always used Word as my n°1 writing program. It's probably one of the most widely and commonly used programs and is easy to use on top of it. Currently I am using Word to write my entire NaNo month in and am copy pasting the Chapters/Scenes/Sections into Scrivener afterwards. It makes it a little easier to have a clear view on my word count.
Whereas with Scrivener, I only found out about that after my first year of Nano. But since then I am absolutely smitten with it. It's a writing tool that allows me to not only section my story in an easy way but has some extra features that have really improved my writing experience.
It's a little difficult to find your way within the program but once I had it figured out, it has served me well and I can't imagine not using it anymore.
It allows me to have everything I need to write my novel within reach: my manuscript, my character maps and outlines, locations I want to include, and even a map solely dedicated to my research (a map filled with images, music, etc.). It has simply become the representation of what this story looked like inside my brain.

(okay, my own scrivener file is far from this long yet, but you get the idea)

2. Notebooks
This digital age is great but my best ideas often come to me whenever I'm not near my computer.
My bed, the bus, the train (basically all public transport), in a shopping center, during work, in public,....
It is then that a notebook is exactly what you need, even if it's just to quickly write down the general outline. I have filled plenty of notebooks over the years and always try to make sure that I have one in at least every bag that I use. Sure, I could use my phone but I'm often quicker with writing it down in a notebook than I am when typing away on my phone.
Notebooks is the way to go!

3. Music
For the last WIPs I have been writing, I have created playlists on Spotify. These playlists hold songs that I want to include my story or inspire a certain scene.
This current story was all the result of listening to one song. It completely enrolled in front of me as I listened to that one particular song.
Some people can't stand noise when they are working but I have found that I work much better if I have something that inspires me. It's also great to create a certain mood or emotion within yourself that you need for a certain scene.
So music is a definite must-have for me and I've already mentioned Spotify but another one that I turn to often is 8tracks.

4. Awesome mugs that hold my fuel
Let's face it. It's impossible to survive your writing lock-down without a nice cup of (fill in at your own liking). Personally I'm a hot chocolate type of girl. I'll drink tea too but would rarely touch the coffee. It only seems logical that this cup of humanity is provided in a beautiful mug. One of my favourite ones and quite appropriate for the occasion is the one from Blossom Books.

5. Cheat sheets
Sometimes a good cheat sheet is exactly what you need. Whether it's to inspire your emotion descriptions or to upgrade your word variation, they are one of my favourite things to use.
Especially as a non-native English writer I can really appreciate a cheat sheet that informs me about word synonyms etc.
I have my personal collection of cheat sheets in a separate page on my Tumblr page and regularly find myself going there.

6. Timeline
The novel I'm currently writing involves a collection of recent events and flashbacks and I have found that a timeline has really helped me with keeping track of what's happened so far. It also allowed me to have a better insight in which ages my characters has around a certain time and helped in deciding which flashback should go where.
Currently using: Timeline

7. Noise
In close relation to music are the noise generating websites.
Two of my favourites are: which generates noises from a forest noises to a coffeeshop and even allows you to combine several sounds together. Is Starbucks your favourite place to write? Now you can create the same noises from your computer ^^

8. Rewards
A little reward for the good progress your making is an absolute must! I like to reward myself with food (what a shocker, I know) or by playing a quick game.
However if you prefer not to distract yourself with physical rewards and prefer to continue writing until the day is over. I might just have the thing for you.
I used this website two years ago whenever I was approaching a scene I was dreading or was stuck in a scene and didn't want to get back to it. 'Written Kitten' is the place to go for the cat loving author! You get a new kitten picture whenever you have written a certain amount of words. It's absolutely adorable and a much more peaceful alternative than 'Write or Die'.

(let's face it, who wouldn't want to be rewarded with a kitten?)

9. The Internet
As much as they are a source of procrastination they also offer a great source of motivation (and information). Especially during the time of nanowrimo, Tumblr and Twitter are great places to find writing prompts, helpful resources and writing buddies.
Though I haven't been on Tumblr in a very long time, in the last few years that I participated in nano, I have created a page dedicated to great writing posts that I have found on Tumblr.

10. Life
The outside world is a constant source of inspiration. It's a great place to do some people watching and even practice the ways you describe people/actions/etc.
It also helps to go outside and get some fresh air every once and a while, especially when you've been locked up inside for the entire month of November.

Do you have any writing gadgets, any of these that you use?
I'm really curious to hear from you and what you like!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: Snowflakes on Silver Cove

5 twinkling stars (I absolutely loved it) for Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself… 
Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance. 
As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George. 
But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas? 
Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage also out now.  
Source: Goodreads

I was kindly given a copy through Netgalley, with many thanks to the publisher. And thanks to Holly for including me in the blog tour.

I tend to waffle a lot whenever I read a brilliant book and fail to do it justice in a review. And this is one of those occasions! 
She's done it again. Holly is slowly but steadily becoming my favourite women's fiction author. Her stories are always filled with a little bit of magic and lots and lots of strong relationships that make you all warm and fuzzy inside.

We're back in White Cliff Bay and this time we aren't treated to one love story but two! (I know!)
We first meet George and Libby, best friends from the moment they met 6 months ago. George has been in love with the quirky Libby ever since, if only she thought of him that way!
But as Libby struggles with writing her current novel and her departure date out of WCB is slowly approaching, she finds herself reluctant to leave and she has the feeling that George is a big part of it.

When they get a new neighbour, George sees this as the perfect opportunity to forget all about his feelings for Libby and ask out this stranger. Only, he's been alone for so long that he isn't sure anymore if he's got what it takes to charm a girl. Libby agrees on helping him out by going on practice dates with him and giving him useful tips.
Libby finds that not only is she enjoying these dates, they're also firing her creativity, and starts feeling things she hasn't felt in a long time.

As time goes too fast, and Libby's departure date is fast approaching, there's only one question that really needs answering: What's the point in practising taking out another person, when the one that you want is sitting right in front of you?
Libby and George will soon find out.

I did tell you about a second love story developing in this lovely book. But you know what, I'm not going to give away everything. I'll leave that one up to you to discover ^^

The WCB series have become the perfect Christmas reads and dare I say that I enjoyed Snowflakes on Silver Cove even more than I have enjoyed Christmas at Lilac Cottage? :O  I can hardly believe it myself! But Holly didn't disappoint. She gave us characters that you loved from the first page up until the last one. This combined with a lot of sexual tension and plenty of sweet and wonderful moments, it's been an absolute delightful experience to read.

The fact that I couldn't stop giggling throughout the first two chapters is saying something. And in truth, the rest of the story had me smiling like an absolute loon too. There's nothing about this story I can think of that I didn't like and that's saying something.
I also totally squealed in delight when my old friends Penny and Henry made an appearance!

I envy Holly's talent so much and aside from being one of the sweetest people out there, she is an enormously talented writer who I wish I could steal some fairy dust from. She simply masters the skills that make a brilliant author.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove was a story that made me wish I could be a fictional character in this story myself!