RUBY Awards

So this happened, Happy Ever After was a finalist in this year’s Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year (RUBY) Awards.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook, this is old news, and I’ve been super slack in posting here, but the truth is I’ve been getting on with finishing my new novel Escape To Curlew Cottage. It’s now with my fabulous editor, so I can catch up on all the other parts of writing – such as blogging and telling you about this.

Happy Ever After came second, and I couldn’t be prouder. I was so super excited to walk up on that stage and get my certificate that I think I might have even done a little fist pump.

My Kiwi bestie was at the awards ceremony with me – fitting given that she got a massive shout-out in Happy Ever After.

Because I came second I didn’t need to make a speech, but if I had to have I would have thanked the same people I thanked in the acknowledgements for this novel: Nicola, my amazing editor for “getting” my voice and helping me publish the best book possible; my family for the taste testing; my dog for being such a fabulous muse; and everyone who has read the book at every stage of the process – from first draft to finished product.

If you haven’t yet read Happy Ever After, you can get it from the following places:

Paperback:

Book Depository

Booktopia

Digital or paperback:

Amazon

Okay, as you were!

P.S. I’ll be launching my newsletter over the next few weeks, so if you haven’t signed up, now is your chance to do so. If you’ve previously signed up, I’m changing mail chimp accounts so it’s probably best if you sign up again just to be sure. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. There’ll be one post a month with publishing news, perhaps some bits and pieces for writers, maybe a recipe…who knows?

2019 in Books – The Story So Far

At, or around, the solstice in December we begin to look at goals and intentions for the next 12 months. It makes sense then that at the halfway point in June we look at how we’re going against those.

Yep…moving right along. There’s very little positive to see here.

I can, however, update you on my reading stats for the year so far.

Part 1

According to Goodreads, at the time of publishing this post I’ve read 60 books. That sounds a lot, but I have spent a lot of time away from home so far this year and that equates to time on planes, trains and buses. Plus, I’ve had almost 4 weeks holiday – and I read a lot on holiday.

I read each night before going to sleep and I read most afternoons after finishing in the day job. Even though I work from home I take that time as a “commute” of sorts to bring a fullstop to my day.

The longest book so far this year was “Anyone But Him” by Sheila O’Flanagan – 640 pages (of which I reckon it was a good 150 pages too long) and the shortest was a book of restaurant reviews by Jay Rayner, “My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have A Lousy Night Out.”

Speaking of Jay Rayner, who is a British restaurant critic, I’ve read another two books, and countless articles in The Observer, by him in the name of research for “Escape To Curlew Cottage”. I could tell you why but that would be a massive spoiler.

Part 2

There are also 2 cookbooks on the list – and yes, I read cookbooks. These both got 5 stars from me. Both are more than cookbooks – they are books about food and the stories that you can tell through food, eating and, in the case of “How To Eat A Peach”, travel. I reviewed Ella Risbridger’s “Midnight Chicken” here, but am yet to tell you more about Diana Henry’s “How To Eat A Peach”.

I was pleased to see new offerings by favourite authors:

  • “Maybe This Time”, Jill Mansell
  • “Swallowtail Summer”, Erica James
  • “The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew”, Milly Johnson
  • “Something To Tell You”, Lucy Diamond
  • “Wedding At Comfort Cafe”, by Debbie Johnson and 
  • “The Spotted Dog”, by Kerry Greenwood

My first read of the year was “You Had Me At Hello,” by (new to me) Mhairi McFarlane. I’ve since read another couple by her.

Thanks to Sydney Shop GirlI have a new series that I’m cultivating an addiction for – Faith Martin’s DI Hillary Greene. I really enjoyed “Murder On The Oxford Canal” and am looking forward to reading more.

The most unsettling book of the year so far for me was Sulari Gentill’s “Crossing The Lines”. This won the Ned Kelly award last year for the crime book of the year – and deservedly so. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to her Rowland Sinclair series, but I found this really rattled me. Like Anthony Horowitz’s books within a book, this has the author deeply entwined in the story, but while hisare quitetongue in cheek and sparkling this is much darker and twisty and really stayed with me. As a writer, I guess that’s what you want to achieve. 

Karen Viggers’, “The Orchardists Daughter” also left me feeling quite unsettled – again, I think, because it felt dark, damp, and claustrophobic. Both books were good, excellent even, but at the time of reading eachI needed more light and hope in order to enjoy the read. The same could be said for “The Other Half Of Augusta Hope”. Should you read them? Yes, probably, definitely. I suspect my view was more about me and the way I was feeling at the time of reading them than the story itself.

There are a few genre romances on my shelf this year, but far fewer than in previous years. I simply haven’t been enjoying them as much as I usually do. I suspect it’s just a phase I’m going through. The ones on my list I picked up for my kindle as free or very cheap Bookbub deals. (As an aside, if you’re a prolific reader and you use a device to read, Bookbub is an excellent source of well-price ie cheap books. Google it.)

Normally I do a bit of the reverse snobbery thing and steer clear of books that have won or been short-listed for major awards. I do the same with movies and TV shows. This year, though, I’ve started 2 such books but haven’t been in the mood to finish either – I think because when I started reading them I was stressed at work and needed escape rather than more angst, and I didn’t want to have to think too hard. If I finish them you’ll hear about them.

And so far my faves for the year? In no particular order and based on my enjoyment factor…

  • “The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew”, Milly Johnson
  • “Maybe This Time”, Jill Mansell
  • “The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton”, Anstey Harris
  • “Little Beach Street Bakery”, Jenny Colgan
  • “A Cornish Summer”, Catherine Alliott
  • “Swallowtail Summer”, Erica James

That’s what I’ve been reading, what about you? Any favourites or recommendations?

This post will also appear on my personal blog at and anyways so apologies if you see it twice!

2018 – In Books

With the end of the year less than 2 weeks away it’s time to start the yearly round-up posts. Today it’s my year in reading.

How many books did I read?

According to Goodreads, so far this year I’ve read 95 books – although there were others that didn’t make it to Goodreads. That’s a few less than last year

Yes, that’s a lot of reading, but I do read most afternoons for an hour after I log off from the day job and again every night before I go to sleep.

And the ones that didn’t make it to Goodreads? Mostly genre romances that were devoured in an hour or so and are sweet but guilty pleasures – like vegemite and cheese on white bread with butter.

The longest book?

Ok, I’m not great with commitment, so the longest book I read was Erica James’ Love and Devotionat 536 pages. Again, according to Goodreads, my page count was greater than last year.

Any new series?

Absolutely. There was Debbie Johnson’s Comfort Café series, Jenny Colgan’s Mure Island series, E.V. Harte’s Tarot Detective series and Helen Pollard’s Little French Guesthouse series.

Additions to favourite series?

I was fortunate to get an advance copy for review purposes of Sulari Gentill’s latest Rowland Sinclair adventure, All The Tears in China. Thankfully there was also a new Rebus from Ian Rankin, In A House Of Liesand an addition to Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne tales with The Sentence Is Death.

Series I missed this year?

Nope. All good.

Thanks for the recommendation…

I rely on my book blogger friend Debbish for additions to my to-be-read pile, and she certainly didn’t let me down in 2018. A new bloggy friend – Sammy from The Annoyed Thyroid was also a reliable source of reading recommendations.

Any 5 star reads?

Yes – I was obviously feeling very generous this year as I handed out 5 stars to 17 reads. I’m not a great critic – if I’ve really enjoyed something it will get the marks from me. As for my favourites out of this list? That’s a tad tougher, but in no specific order here is my top 10:

  • The Land Before Avocado, Richard Glover
  • Paris Is Always A Good Idea, Nicholas Barreau
  • The Man I Think I Knew, Mike Gayle
  • The Chilbury Ladies Choir, Jennifer Ryan
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
  • Café By The Sea, Jenny Colgan
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
  • A far Cry From Kensington, Muriel Spark
  • Sunshine At The Comfort Food Café, Debbie Johnson
  • Gardens Of Delight, Erica James

Close behind – and also with 5 stars – was Art of Friendship by Lisa Ireland and Three Gold Coins by fellow Sunshine Coastie Josephine Moon.

Any books adapted into a movie?

I tend not to read blockbusters – in much the same way that I tend not to watch anything nominated for an Oscar. I’m a bit of a reverse snob in this way. This means that often I don’t watch movie adaptations.

This year, however, there was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – which I read before I watched the movie.

Genre-hopping?

I’m not normally a non-fiction reader, but read some memoir this year – mostly foodie related, of course.

There was Nigel Slater’s Toastand Eating For England, and John Baxter’s A Paris Christmasand The Perfect Meal. Away from the foodie genre I enjoyed Billy Connelly’s Billy, and Ailsa Piper’s Sinning Across Spain – Walking The Camino.

Craft books read?

No, not this year.

Any business books?

Nope.

What annoyed me this year?

I read way too many books this year where sub-plots were added late into a book for the sole reason of enabling the author to tie together loose ends. There were also too many books that told us in the last couple of chapters about the character’s growth without showing these traits throughout. Oh, look! She used to be like x, now she’s like y…that sort of thing. Show don’t tell.

This cost at least six books on my list from getting a 5-star rating.  

What is concerning is that all were traditionally published yet they felt like they needed tightening editorially. Perhaps I only noticed because I’m aware that this is something I’m guilty of too – like typos in quickly cobbled together posts…whatevs..

2019?

I have some more non-fiction on my to be read pile and a couple of cookbooks that need to be actually read rather than flicked through. I’ve also added some food critics to my pile – for research purposes. 

Book-related resolutions?

This isn’t great news for the authors that I support, but my resolution this year is to go three months without buying any books at all. I have books on my bookshelf – both physical and virtual – that are crying out for attention and yet last year (and the year before and the year before that and…you get the idea) spent the equivalent of a very good holiday on books and music. I intend to work my way through some of these this year. And yes, I said all of this last year too! Anyways I’ll revisit my progress (and my willpower) at the end of March. Oh, exceptions to this rule are books bought at airports which everyone knows don’t count.

What about you? Any favourites? Recommendations? 

My Christmas Reading List

I’ll give you a rundown of my year in books next week, but for now, with Christmas just 11 days away, I’m reading only seasonal titles – just to get into the spirit of it all.

In fact, I’m so full of the spirit of the season that I’m planning my own Christmas novel. It will be full of food, love, and two dogs named Nigel and Nigella. As for the rest? Yeah, I haven’t got that far yet!

Anyways, without further ado here’s what’s in my kindle for Christmas…

A Gift From Comfort Food Cafe, Debbie Johnson – part of the fabulous Comfort Food Cafe series

Christmas At The Comfort Food Cafe, Debbie Johnson – ditto

A Paris Christmas, John Baxter – a book about one man’s search to plan and source the perfect French Christmas dinner

Christmas at Claridges, Karen Swan – which, disappointingly, isn’t really about either Christmas or Claridges.

The Christmas Secret, Karen Swan – which, much more pleasingly, is about both Christmas and a Scottish whisky distillery.

Mistletoe and Murder, Carola Dunn – part of the Daisy Dalrymple series

The Mother Of All Christmases, Milly Johnson – I thought this one would be a lot more predictable than it has turned out to be…thankfully. What I’ve loved is re-meeting a whole host of characters from her previous (stand-alone) novels.

The Christmas Wish, Tilly Tennant – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile

An Island Christmas, Jenny Colgan – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile

Ok, that’s my Christmas reading list – what’s on yours?