Tag Archives: love

Friend Request by Laura Marshall. Review 

‘Will we hold them forever, these hurts we bear from our teenage years?’

We have all at times been the victim of bullying, just the same as we have always at times been the bully. No! I hear you cry, I would never bully someone. True, I’m not saying you were one of the big, bad wolf ones, the popular ones or the good looking ones who ostracised everyone else or regularly tormented anyone. But you’re telling me you never laughed along with a joke at someone else’s expense, never played a trick on someone else or took part in what you thought was a practical joke? Passed along a bit of gossip or revelled in hearing it? We’ve all done it and you’re the bigger person if you can hold your hands up and admit it. 

In 1989 Louise is just that herself. Bullied although she didn’t recognise it as such, she stands on the fringe of the ‘popular group’ in school, where she doesn’t fit in and half of the gang don’t even know her name. When the new girl Maria joins the school, Louise has the opportunity to make a real friendship, to finally belong. But Sophie the school bitch who keeps Louise around simply to make herself look better doesn’t like Maria and doesn’t want Louise having friends. Left helpless by peer pressure Louise turns from bullied to bully and along with her ‘gang’ makes Maria’s life a living hell. 

Fast forward to 2016 and Louise gets a friend request on Facebook from Maria. But that can’t be right can it? Maria died that year at school under mysterious circumstances. Or did she really die at all? 

This novel is highly gripping, especially for a debut novel you don’t really expect this kind of quality but it’s really, really engrossing. From the first page to the last I haven’t been able to put it down and I literally had no idea by the end!! 

It’s the classic tale of revenge on the b*tches who made your life hell in high school but with a new and unique twist. Powerful and evoking I felt like It took me right back to my own school days, knowing what it was like to always be on the fringes. The sentence I’ve quoted at the top of this review really nailed it for me, because if Louise had asked me that question, my answer would definitely be yes. 

July Author Interview – Paula Cocozza 

This month I had the honour of interviewing the lovely Paula Cocozza, Paula is a writer for The Guardian and her debut novel How to Be Human was published on the 9th May this year. You can read my review here: http://ow.ly/Jfrw30dHARR

What was your background and how did you get into writing?

 Before I got into writing, I got into reading. From about the age of 11 I read everything I could get my hands on. Luckily I had a great little library – Goring library in Worthing – between school and home, so I’d stop off on my way back and stock up. I never knew what I wanted to be, but I knew I loved books, so I read English at university and after that decided that I wanted to write. When I graduated, it was 1994, and the World Cup was on. For a laugh I sent a letter to a football magazine asking if I could write for them. They said yes, and I ended up writing about football for the next five or six years. So I was writing from my first job, but I always had in my head the sense that I was not writing the thing I wanted to write. I just didn’t know what it was. From football writing I moved to fashion writing and eventually feature writing – I have worked at the Guardian now for more than ten years. Then a few years ago I realised I had to face up to the very private ambition I had always held – which was to write fiction. I have no idea why it took me so long to reach that point, but it did.
Football to Fashion to Features, you’ve done it all then. What are your ambitions for your writing? 

To keep doing it. To write the stories I know as truly as I can.

Which writers inspire you? 

I love Hilary Mantel, especially Wolf Hall and Giving Up The Ghost. There is such physicality in her prose. You can feel the body in the words. I find Ali Smith inspiring, because she seems to treat the blank page as a tremendous opportunity for fun. She has a playfulness with language that I really admire. I have a lot of admiration for Henry James, for the way he steps in and out of his characters’ minds so that narration, and writing, itself can seem sinister, transgressive. And recently I have found Elizabeth Strout very inspiring. I’m obsessed with her local repetitions – she writes sentences that if you took them to a creative writing workshop people would underline all the repetitions with some tut-tut remark in the margin, but Strout does it so cleverly. Some of her repetitions are heartbreaking.

I’ve actually just bought Wolf Hall on your recommendation, although I haven’t had chance to read it yet. How much research went into writing How to be Human? 

Well, I wanted to make sure that everything I wrote about the fox was realistic and accurate. I knew the relationship between Mary, my protagonist, and the fox would or could seem magical, so I wanted to give it a heavy realist ballast by making sure I knew what I was talking about. I watched endless videos of foxes on YouTube with a pencil in my hand. I read some books by people who had studied fox behaviour. I watched the foxes in my own garden. And I searched Twitter for people who love foxes and asked them to talk to me about them. The story really rose out of the details these people and experts all shared, but at a certain point I had to switch off all the research. I knew enough about foxes in general and needed to pay attention only to my Fox.

I love that you he is ‘your’ fox in the same way that he is Mary’s. What are you working on at the moment? 

I am writing a story about a woman who has lost a case of old love letters.

That sounds intriguing! Have you always wanted to write? How did you make the transition from feature writing for The Guardian to writing a novel? 

I wrote the novel while I was working at the Guardian (I still work there). So it has not been a transition so much as an overlap. Both jobs involve telling a story in the most appropriate and compelling way, so luckily I have not felt conflicted or in transition.

What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

I have a small Acer laptop. It was pretty cheap and I’m told by anyone who borrows it that it is annoyingly slow. It makes a whirring sound, and I quite enjoy the fact that I can hear it thinking. I keep different notepads on the go as well: one in which I write down any random idea connected to the work in progress. An ‘instant thought’ pad beside the computer where i scribble down thoughts I don’t want to lose, and a large A3 pad which is under the laptop and which I pull out at the start of each section or chapter, to scope out ideas and possibilities. Any excuse to make sure I have fully exploited the stationery opportunities!

It seems to be a thing for writers and readers alike to love stationary, I adore it! If you could write in another genre which would you choose to write? 

Well, I don’t feel that any genre is forbidden me. I could write in any one, and I am choosing the one I want to write in. I guess if I were to do something a little different I might choose fictional memoir, a children’s book or crime. None of those is a burning desire at this stage though!

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I wrote How to be Human on Fridays and in whichever evenings I could nab in the week – basically stealing whatever time I could get. Now both my children are at school (they are aged six and nine), I also have Mondays during school hours. So Mondays and Fridays, plus evenings when I have the words and the time. I’m doing quite a bit of thinking at the moment, so I don’t set a word count, though I might do at a later stage if I catch myself dithering. For How to be Human, I had a three-day break for each of the two main drafts when I went away, locked myself up in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and wrote 10,000 words a time. So I know I can work quickly when I need to and when I’m ready.

Locked away in a cottage writing sounds like every writer’s perfect retreat! What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I found an agent I really liked, and then she sent the book out on submission. I chose Hutchinson as my publisher because it was clear as soon as I met my editor (Jocasta Hamilton) that she really got – and loved – the book. So it was a choice based on personality and feeling a connection. I wanted the book to be published physically, not only digitally, and I wanted it to be in as many bookshops as possible.

I can completely get that, although I have a lot of admiration for self published authors I feel like If and when my book is ever published I want to see it in my local Waterstones. How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 

Oh crikey, this is the toughest question! If only I knew. There is a marketing and a publicity department at my publisher (Hutchinson is part of Penguin Random House), but an author does have to do a certain amount of publicity themselves. I enjoy using Twitter – it’s a fun way to connect with readers and booksellers. I am also a great believer in the power of a speculative letter, so I wrote to quite a few authors I admired when I had proofs of How to be Human, asking if I could send it to them. In return, there were a few embarrassing silences but also some lovely replies – including a brilliant endorsement from Hilary Mantel. 

I bet that was amazing with her being one of your favourite authors! If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 

I don’t think there is one: the book has to come from within, and that can only be true of the ones I write.

What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 

Interesting question! Shortly before my book was published, I interviewed Ross Raisin (for the Guardian), who told me that he never reads any reviews. His wife reads them for him.I thought I would do the same, and offered my daughter 50p a week to keep an eye on Goodreads! But the truth is I do look at them, albeit through the gaps between my fingers. Recently I interviewed Max Porter and he said he read as much as he could because he wanted to engage with the experience of publication as much as possible. I think I am somewhere in between. I definitely avoid looking on Goodreads before I go to bed but I’ve been lucky enough to have some brilliant reviews, in The Economist, The Times Literary Supplement, the Telegraph and Guardian among others. I guess they bring the book to broader notice, so in that sense they are important. But someone told me that a person on average needs to see or hear or read about a book three times before they’ll buy it, so I think reviews are probably just a few pieces of a pretty large and mysterious jigsaw.

Thank you so much Paula for taking the time out to be interviewed on my blog, it’s been an honour and a pleasure to have you! 

You can now buy Paula’s book How to Be Human at all good book stores! And if you’d like to hear more from Paula and get updates on what she’s doing next you can find her social media links below. 

Twitter: @CocozzaPaula [https://twitter.com/CocozzaPaula]

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paula.cocozza.7

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15449753.Paula_Cocozza
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paula-Cocozza/e/B071HW5WJY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1495195035&sr=8-1

The Overneath by Peter S Beagle. Review 

Yet another incredible collection of short stories from world renowned Fantasy Author Peter S Beagle. I was extra excited for The Overneath because I’d heard it featured a story about our very own Schmendrick the Magician. But imagine my delight when I discovered not one but two Schmendrick stories!! 

In addition, there is of course plenty of other stories in here which deserve praise of their own. From stories about the Fremont Bridge Troll (of which I had never previously heard of but am now fascinated by) to stories of otherworlds where our world lays in the shadows. 

I particularly liked the story about a group of men living together and one of them creates an electronic device which without giving spoilers has a spooky purpose. Another favourite has to be the one about a haunted aquarium and it’s retired teachers for heroines. And of course there’s lots of Unicorn related stories too! 

Peter S Beagle just has an incredible skill for putting together both short and full length stories. I have been in love with The Last Unicorn my whole life and I continue to adore every single thing Peter writes. The Overneath is no different. A fantasy lover’s heaven from start to finish. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Review 

‘There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar.’

I kept seeing this book popping up everywhere but for some reason, potentially the title it gave me the feeling it was going to be a children’s book, even though I actually knew it wasn’t one. Just something about it, maybe I was judging a book by its cover (naughty) but I really didn’t fancy it. Then Netgalley sent me an email about it and I thought why the heck not? Let’s see what everyone’s raving about. My, my, my am I glad I did! 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut novel from Gail Honeyman and the main character Eleanor Oliphant is best described as a mix between Jane Eyre and Sheldon Cooper. Eleanor lives a life which basically involves working in an office, eating a meal deal for lunch each day, listening to The Archers and reading books about anything. She has no friends and her only conversation is with her ‘mummy’ every week on a Wednesday. 

This story held me, it drew me in and kept me there and I couldn’t pull myself away until I’d finished it. Eleanor was, despite her oddities extremely likeable and it was all to easy to empathise with her situation while desperately trying to work out how she got there. There’s plenty of clues along the way and it all comes together in the end but getting there is done in such a way that we watch Eleanor unfold like a crushed  flower still desperately trying to open. 

This is not a sad book, but neither is it a happy one, what it is is interesting from start to finish and so like real life, it makes you question your very existence, the way you treat other people and the small things that seemingly mean nothing but can really turn someone’s life around for the better. What a truly amazing book! 

The Break by Marian Keyes. Review 

Marian Keyes is back with another hilarious, touching and heat warming tale straight from Dublin. 

Amy has a wonderful life. An ordinary life but it’s one she appreciates. She has a job doing what she loves (even if it doesn’t always pay great), 2 and a bit daughters and a lovely husband Hugh who saved her from the crap she had put up with in her first marriage. Everything’s going just great, until Hugh decides he wants to go on a break. Alone. For 6 months, to sleep with other women and go on a mission of ‘self discovery’. Amy is devastated as her life is turned upside down in a heartbeat and she has to begin making a self discovery of her own. 

As I’ve come to expect from Marian’s novels, the story is told in a humorous way but the subject matter is serious and covers topics from mid life crisis’, to Alzheimer’s and even vlogging. In typical Marian style, the family unit while full of problems have a strong bond and it’s easy to relate to the squabbles and difficulties of an ordinary family. I think this is the thing I like about Marian’s novels the most, that she can make the ordinary seem extraordinary. 

And sometimes, like with this one she makes you question if the happy ending was the happy ending you wanted after all! 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Review 

Where to even begin with this rich, exciting, beautifully written, soul tearing book? Well I think you get the drift from that! 

Outlander is one of those books or should I say series which has been on my tbr for a while but to be honest I was put off by its length. Coming in at over 900 pages it’s a hefty one and my thought has always been, why read one long book when you can read 10 small ones? 

Plus it’s taken me extra long to read because it’s been my birthday, and also a big event at work so I haven’t had as much time as I’d have liked on my hands to read it. But was it worth it? Hell yes! 

I absolutely loved Outlander it is a story of a young woman called Claire who has gone on a trip with her husband Frank to the highlands of Scotland so that he can research his family tree. This is post World War Two and Claire has been working in the hospital as a nurse. Through this she has become interested in medicinal plants and their usage. One day while investigating a set of stone circles not unlike Stonehenge she is hurtled back through time to Scotland 1743 and meets Jamie, then her life changes forever. 

The romance in this novel is strife with pain and suffering, indecision and risk taking but my god is it passionate and is it true? It is so beautifully written and so well put together that it’s really hard to describe! 

I’ve been lost in this novel for a week, I’ve wandered the Highlands of Scotland, had a blazing love affair, laughed and joked with the characters and cried at their pain. And that’s enough to set out a good novel from the rest, because when one is this good, you feel it as you become interwoven with the story itself. I can’t wait to find out what happens next! 

Fifty Bookish Questions Book Tag 

Hi all, welcome back to my blog! It’s time for another tag as I am still reading Outlander. No I can’t believe it either, its been like a week now but the thing is I just really haven’t had time. It’s been a really busy week at work, and on top of that it’s been my birthday as well so I’ve been busy doing things. For example tomorrow I’m off to Warwick Castle where the amazing tv show Merlin was filmed! I can’t wait! 

So anyway here’s a book tag to keep you going until I can get back into reviewing! I found this tag on https://mylittlebookblog.com/2016/01/15/the-fifty-bookish-questions-book-tag/

The Fifty Bookish Questions Book Tag

1. The last book you read? 

The Stranger Within by Kathryn Croft 

2. Was it a good one? 

Yes, you can read my review here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/the-stranger-within-by-kathyrn-croft-review/

3. What made it good? 

Suspense, and an excellent twist

4. Would you recommend it to other people?

If you love a good thriller with an excellent twist that will keep you guessing throughout then definitely yes! 

5. How often do you read? 

Everyday, as often as I can. On the bus, in the bath, in bed, on my lunch break, in the doctors waiting room. I’m always reading. 

6. Do you like to read? 

I should hope so haha 

7. What was the last bad book you read? 

I don’t really like to slate books but the last book I started and did not finish due to not enjoying it was The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer. 

8. What made you dislike it? 

I just couldn’t connect with the main character who immediately annoyed me. After a couple of chapters I still wasn’t sure I understood where the novel was trying to go. It was boring. 

9. Do you wish to be a writer? 

Well technically I am a writer! I’ve written several short stories and poems and a couple have been published in a university write club society magazine. I’ve also written a novel which I am in the process of editing. 

10. Has any book ever influenced you greatly? 

Books are such a huge part of my life that many of them have influenced me. But there are two which stand out most for me that I can truly say ‘changed my life’ and they are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight. 

11. Do you read fan fiction? 

No. Not for any particular reason, it’s just never appealed to me that much. 

12. Do you write fan fiction? 

Please see question 11 

13. What’s your favourite book? 

When you’ve read just shy of 2,000 books this question is really hard to answer! I’d probably say Wuthering Heights. That’s my standard answer. 

14. What’s your least favourite book? 

I don’t really have a least favourite there’s lots of books that I did not finish because I didn’t enjoy them. If I finished them then I liked them. 

15. Do you prefer physical books or e reading on a device like a kindle?

You can actually watch my YouTube video about that here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=38XxnrlFF70

16. When did you learn to read? 

People who know me would lead you to believe I learned to read in the womb! But I think I was about 3 or 4 years old. 

17. What is your favourite book you had to read in school? 

If uni counts as school then I’d have to say Wuthering Heights again! 

18. What is your favourite book series? 

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare 

19. Who is your favourite author? 

If I had to choose, then, again it would be Cassie Clare 

20. What is your favourite genre? 

YA Fantasy 

21. Who is your favourite character in a book series? 

I do really love Jace in TMI 

22. Has a book ever transported you to somewhere else? 

Why do you think I read? Haha 

23. Which book do you wish had a sequel? 

All of them forever and ever! I hate it when I get to the end of a book and have to leave the characters behind. I don’t like that it’s the end of their story. 

24. Which book do you wish didn’t have a sequel? 

Oh god, I can’t think of any off the top of my head! I think there’s a few that could have done without the middle book and just been a two parter, like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. 

25. How long does it take you to read a book? 

I can read around 110 pages in an hour so I’ll let you do the math! 

26. Do you like when books become movies? 


27. Which book was ruined by its movie? 

Don’t shoot me but all the Harry Potters! 

28. Which movie has done a book justice? 

I really liked the movie of TMI but hate the series! Weird! 

29. Do you read newspapers? 

Only if I haven’t got a book to hand. 

30. Do you read magazines? 

I subscribe to and read 3 magazines and they are Writers Mag, Glamour and Cosmopolitan 

31. Do you prefer newspapers or magazines? 


32. Do you read while in bed? 

I used to a lot but I’ve been trying to stop as I have issues sleeping and apparently using your bed as somewhere to read, watch tv etc is bad for you and can stop you sleeping. So I bought a lovely big chair which lives beside my bed and I read there now instead. 

33. Do you read while on the toilet. 

I read everywhere and that’s enough said about that! 

34. Do you read in the car? 

Nope that’s about the only place I don’t as it makes me sick. But weirdly I can read just fine on buses, trains and planes! 

35. Do you read while in the bath? 

It’s one of my favourite places to read. 

36. Are you a fast reader?

Pretty fast, yes. 

37. Are you a slow reader? 

Please see question 36 

38. Where is your favourite place to read? 

In my lovely reading chair. 

39. Is it hard for you to concentrate when you read? 

If it’s a good book that keeps me gripped then not at all! 

40. Do you need a room to be silent when you read? 

Not really but I do find the tv distracting if my boyfriend is watching something interesting! 

41. Who gave you your love for reading? 

Nobody I can say specifically, none of my family are really big readers or my friends either. I guess I just fell in love with it straight away! 

42. What book is next on your list to read? 

The Break by Marian Keyes 

43. When did you start reading chapter books? 

When I was around four or five years old 

44. Who is your favourite children’s book author? 

Enid Blyton 

45. Which author would you most like to interview? 

Cassandra Clare 

46. Which author do you think you’d be friends with? 

Again Cassandra Clare! 

47. What book have you reread the most? 

Probably Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone.

48. Which books do you consider ‘classics’? 

Obviously there are a range of books like Dickens, Brontë sisters, Daphne Du Maurier, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy etc but modern classics I would say LoTR, GoT and HP. 

49. Which books do you think should get taught in school? 

I think it’s really important for children to learn to love books. Books I was taught in junior school included Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith and I think these are great starters. Children’s classics like Peter Pan and just anything with a fantasy element like Harry Potter, LoTR and books like Inkheart. It’s important to enjoy a book at the right age and although there’s books I love now I didn’t like them so much in school when I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate them! 

50. Which books should be banned from schools?

Unless they are literally full of sexual content like let’s say; Fifty Shades of Grey or they’ve got a lot of gore, murder etc like a crime novel, I see no reason to be banning any books from schools! 

Thanks for reading my latest tag! See you again soon.