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My not so Perfect Life – Sophie Kinsella

My not so Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. How to describe it. Thrilling, full of twists, relatable, understandable, exciting and inspiring? Yep, it is certainly all those things and more.

Now I fully appreciate that the journey a reader takes whilst reading a book is totally dependent on the book, the author, the reader and the mood. But my journey whilst reading My not so Perfect Life was a bit of a rollercoaster.My not so Perfect Life

I started the novel in a pretty low mood, picking it up firstly because it was written by my favourite author, and secondly because I hadn’t read it yet and needed something I could get totally lost in, as I do most of Kinsella’s novels.

As the plot of the novel progressed I found that I could totally identify with the main character Katie, her life and her ambition. I think Katie is a character people of all ages could identify with, whether it be reminiscent of their past experiences, their current circumstances or their hopes for the future.

As I’ve mentioned, there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep even the lightest of readers engaged until the end, and plenty of supporting characters some lovable, others misunderstood and some utterly detestable. But it all comes together to make a fantastic book, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

There are plenty of hilarious LOL and OMG moments with just enough reality, a fast pace and bump down to earth moments to keep the plot grounded.

By the time I had finished the novel, I felt like I had been on just as trying and testing a journey as Katie had. My mood was in a completely different, much more upbeat and positive place, and I felt ready to re-join the world again. That is the true testament to Kinsella’s skill with words. Her depictions of Katie’s trials and triumphs are written simply but effectively. Their impact is never lost with mundane descriptions that are verbose. Kinsella is concise, consistent and companionable in the way she writes.

If you have read any of Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, or Jojo Moyes’ novels, My not so Perfect Life is one you’ll definitely enjoy and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If your best friend, mum or sister is feeling a little down, give them a copy and watch their spirit lift.

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The Alchemist – Paul Coelho

The Alchemist is a novel which a reader can enjoy on two levels. I was recommended this book by someone who said they felt it helped them to keep an open mind to new possibilities and challenges. It’s reassuring to find that there are books out there, that can assist us, perhaps unknowingly on a sub-conscious level but that we can also simply enjoy.

The AlchemistOn the surface, it is simply a beautiful novel following a young man’s journey, as he follows his dreams and destiny. On a deeper level The Alchemist is a novel that not only describes the journey of the young man, but more than this Coelho takes the reader on this journey also.

The journey a reader takes in reading The Alchemist, crosses oceans, villages, and deserts, each with its own intoxicating description. Each new place offers new challenges to either be risen to, or given up on. Each new scene also brings us new experiences and new people to meet and learn from, all the while life still moves forward.

It is Coelho’s descriptions of these exotic places that were my favourite part of reading The Alchemist. They were so exacting that they transported me to the centre of the novel.

Coelho’s use of language is quite unique, minor spoiler alert, but his lack of concretely naming the main character in this novel, ultimately means he could be anyone. It makes it easier for the reader to inject themselves into the novel.

The novel is mostly realist, with relatable situations and people you could imagine meeting in the exotic places Coelho describes. But there are elements of magical realism too, these add a slight air of fantasy to the novel – making it a more light-hearted read.

If you read with your mind clear and open to new thoughts and ideas, then I believe this novel could help a reader open themselves to new possibilities.

I would recommend The Alchemist to those who enjoy novels that allow you travel across the world, but also makes you think. It is a novel that can make you think about your own circumstances, and help you pull together a more positive outlook if you let it.


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The Ghost Fields – Elly Griffiths

When the novel you pick up to read during a weekend away is set during a heatwave in Norfolk, I bet your mind conjures images of a sunny beach, romance and flirty plot twists. Until you read the title The Ghost Fields that is.

Elly Griffiths’ The Ghost Fields is a novel which would suit readers who enjoy crime thrillers, or those with an interest in World War Two history or both. Griffiths’ offsets gripping, stark, intense and engaging drama with intrigue, seeming historically sound descriptions and a romantic subplot of unrequited love. It has been a long time since I read a crime thriller which is this well written, I simply couldn’t put it down.

The Ghost Fields

The Ghost Fields is well paced, fast moving in all the right places, and slows to allow the reader to take a breath exactly when needed. Some moments in our heroine’s story hit some particularly dark places deep down, which many readers will be able to relate to. Equally there are some much lighter and less tense moments, which whilst they still carry an air of awkwardness; are a reflection on the development of the main character as both the reader gets to know her, and as she makes decisions which reveal more about her inner desires to her own self.

A few crime novels I’ve read in the past have fallen into the trap of being too focused on the hard facts and not enough on the emotional state of their characters. Books which include references to real events such as World War Two can often become too engrossed in the history and do not clearly link their relevance to the present day in the novel. The Ghost Fields has neither of these problems. As a reader with more interest in the crime side of things than the World War history, Elly Griffiths does well to bring emotion to the history and keeps it relevant to the modern day. Whilst there is just enough dramatic tension to keep you reading, without exhausting the reader.

At times it felt like I was left with more questions than answers, but by the time I had finished reading it, all the secrets had come out and the answers were supplied readily. Reaching the end was as satisfying as it gets for a book lover. All the I’s were dotted and T’s crossed. Granted, I didn’t necessarily get all the happy endings I wanted, but I had answers either way.

If you’re looking for a modern twist on a crime thriller to try, I’d definitely recommend you read The Ghost Fields.

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Man Booker Longlist Announced Today

Leeds Reads

h_logo_official_largeThe longlist, or ‘Man Booker Dozen’, for the Man Booker Prize has been announced today, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Michael Wood, and also comprising Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize.

This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK.  Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

The 2015 longlist of 13 novels, is:

Bill Clegg – Did You Ever Have a Family(Jonathan Cape)            

Anne Enright – The Green Road(Jonathan Cape)

Marlon James – A Brief History of Seven Killings(Oneworld Publications)

Laila Lalami – The Moor’s Account (Periscope…

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Do You Think You Could Write For Television?

Leeds Reads

Channel 4 has joined the Northern Writers’ Awards to search for undiscovered writing talent from the north of England. The scheme, launched recently is to identify raw and diverse television talent from the north of England. Launched by Northumbria University, Newcastle, the new award will offer a unique opportunity for two writers to be mentored through the script commissioning process with Lime Pictures and RED Production Company. The Channel 4 / Northumbria University Writing for Television Award will open for submissions on Friday 14 November, as part of the annual Northern Writers’ Awards, and is open to both complete beginners as well as those who already have some writing experience.

One of the winning writers will be mentored by Lime Pictures in Liverpool (Hollyoaks) and will shadow the process of script development, from first draft to broadcast script. This may lead to a commission to write an original episode of the serial…

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Get into your Poet’s corner!

Here’s a new list of poetry competitions running from December 2014 to March 2015, have fun getting your verses flowing!

Enfield Poets International Poetry Competition 2014 

Previously unpublished poems of up to 50 lines on any subject. Judge is Ruth Padel. 1st prize: £500, 2nd prize: £200, 3rd prize: £100
Entry: £4 per poem, £10 for three poems

Closing Date: 01-Dec-14

More information:

Kingston Libraries Poetry Competition

Prizes: 1st prize £50 book tokens, 2nd prize £30 book tokens, 3rd prize £20 book tokens. Theme of your poem should be ‘remember’. Poems must be typed and no longer than 45 lines. Maximum four poems per entrant.
Entry:  Free

Closing Date: 01-Dec-14

More information  (type library competitions in the search box).

The Book of Plans Hopes And Dreams

Anglo-German writing competition to link 1914 to 2114 and beyond by writing a poem or short story to each era. Prizes: Winners: All expenses paid trip to Lower Saxony, Germany and publication special commemorative books which will on display in England and Germany and on website. Shortlist publication in commemorative book and website. Longlist publication on website.
Entry: Free

Closing Date: 02-Dec-14

More information


Flash 500 Humour Verse Competition

Up to 32 lines. 1st prize: £150, 2nd £100, 3rd: £50. The results will be announced within six weeks of the closing date and the three winning entries will be published on the website.
Entry: £3 for the first poem, then £2.50 for each poem

Closing Date: 13-Dec-14

Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize

Run in conjunction with The Moth magazine. Four cash prizes for a single unpublished poem – 10,000 euros for the winner and three runner-up prizes of 1,000 euros. Open to all, for work that is original and previously unpublished. The winning poems appear in the spring 2015 issue of The Moth and the winners will be invited to read at a special award ceremony in Dublin in March 2015.
Entry : 12 euros

Closing Date: 31-Dec-14

Contact: More information at or call 00 353 49 4362677.

 The Poetry Box Halloween Poetry Annual Award 2014

Halloween-Themed Annual Poetry Award. Prizes: 1st prize – Glass Trophy, a decorative ‘First Prize Winner Award’ Certificate for framing, publication in a 2015 Edition of ‘The Poetry Box Dark & Horror Poetry Magazine’ & publication on The Poetry Box website.  The 2nd and 3rd prizes of £100.00 and £50.00 respectively and certificates etc
Entry: £6 for 1 poem, £15 for 3 poems, £20 for 4 poems

Closing Date: 31-Dec-14

More information:


Local Poem Competition 2015

Up to 25 lines (each blank line counts as one line) and 160 words each. Theme -a poem about life in your own home town or area to “Local Poem” Prize- £1,000 cash, up to three entries

Entry Free

Closing Date: 31-Dec-14

More information:

SaveAs International Open Creative Writing Competition

Up to 50 lines Any theme. Open to international entries. 1st prize- £100, 2nd- £50, 3rd – £30 plus trophies.

Entry: £3 for one entry, £8 for three.

Closing date: 31- Dec -14.
More information

The Basil Bunting Poetry Award

Up to 40 lines, open internationally, any poem in English. 1st prize: £1000   2nd £750   3rd £250

Entry: £6 for one poem, £10 for two, and an extra £5 per poem beyond that.

Maximum number of entries per poet -10

Closing date: 15- January-15

More information:

Magma Judges Prize 2014

Poems of 11 to 50 lines. 1st prize £1,000, 2nd £300, 3rd  £150. In addition to receiving cash prizes, winners will be invited to read at Magma’s prize-giving event in Spring 2015. All winning entries will be published in the magazine.
Entry: £5 for the first poem, £4 for second, £3.50 for third and each subsequent poem, reduction for Magma magazine subscribers.

 Closing Date: 19-Jan-15

More information:

Magma Editors’ Prize 2014

Poems up to 10 lines. 1st prize £1,000, 2nd £300, plus 10 Special Mentions £15 each.
Entry: £5 for the first poem, £4 for second and £3.50 for the third and each subsequent poem. Magma magazine subscribers benefit from reduced fees.

Closing Date: 19-Jan-15
More information:

Torriano Poetry Competition 2015

Unpublished poems of up to 40 lines. 1st prize £250, 2nd £150, 3rd  £75. Winning poets will be offered featured readings at the adjudication celebration on 12th April, 2015.
Entry: £3 one poem, £5 for two, £10 for five

Closing Date: 30-Jan-15

More information: Cheques payable to the Torriano Support Fund. Name, address, email, phone number and poem titles on separate sheet. No entry form required. Entries to Patricia Griffin, 4 Cundishall Close, Whitstable, Kent CT5 4DA.


 Prole Laureate 2015

The winner will receive £200 and publication in Prole 16, due out in April 2015. Two runners up receive £50 each and possible publication in Prole 16. The winner and runners up will be showcased here on the Prole website.
Entry: £3 for first entry, £2 for subsequent entries

Closing Date: 31-Jan-15

More information : Email entries

Kent & Sussex Poetry Society Open Poetry Competition

Poems up to 60 lines not previously published 1st prize: £1000, 2nd: £300, 3rd: £100, 4th: 4 x £50.
Entry: £5 per poem. 3 or more poems: £4 each

Closing Date: 31-Jan-15

More information:

The Slipstream Poets Open Poetry Competition 2015

Poems up to 60 lines not previously published. Prizes: £275; £100; £75. Additional prize of £25 and the award of the Chanctonbury Cup for a winning West Sussex entrant. Winners will be notified individually & all results will be published on the Slipstream Web Site by 31st March 2015.
Entry: £3.50 per poem or 4 for £12.00, 6 for £15.00

Closing Date: 31-Jan-15

More information

Teignmouth Poetry Festival Competition 2015

Up to 35 lines, any subject previously unpublished. 1st prize £500, 2nd – £200, 3rd – £100.  Winners announced on Sunday 22nd March 2015.
Entry: £4 for one poem, £3 each for additional poems

Closing Date: 31-Jan-15

More information:


Bronte Society Creative Competition

A poem in any style offering a new perspective on one of the novels, up to 50 lines.

Prizes -1st £500, then £250 and £100.

Entry: £10.

Closing date: 31-Jan-15.

More information:


Keats-Shelley Prize

Poems up to 40 lines on the theme of ‘Watcher of the skies’.

Prizes: £4,000 in total.

Entry: £5.

Closing date: 1-Feb-15

More information:

The Corinium Museum Poetry Competition

Poems up to 40 lines inspired by an object displayed or theme interpreted at the museum. The winner of each category will receive a season ticket to the museum valid for a year. Winning poems will be displayed in the museum and published on the museum website. Highly commended poems will also be displayed in the museum and may be published on the museum website. Categories: 16 years old and above, 11-15 years old, Under 11s.
Entry Free

Closing Date: 06-Feb-15

More information:


Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition

Poems up to 40 lines, prizes: Chapbook publication.

Entry: £2.50, £10 for six.

Closing date: 14-Feb-15

More Information:

Fire River Poets Open Poetry Competition 2015

Up to 40 lines any theme, not previously published. 1st prize £200, 2nd £100, 3rd £75. Prizewinners will also be invited to take part in a special Reading in Taunton;  notified by beginning of May.
Entry : £4 for 1; £8 for 2; £10 for 3, £3 each for additional poems.

Closing Date: 20-Feb-15

More information:

The Christopher Tower Poetry Competition 2015 (16-18 years of age).

Theme: ‘Cells’.  1st prize £3,000, 2nd £1,000 3rd £500  In addition to individual prizes, the students’ schools and colleges also receive cash prizes of £150 and the three prize winners are eligible for a place on the Tower Poetry Summer School.. Longlisted entrants’ poems are published on the Tower Poetry website. Winners announced on Monday 20 April 2015.
Entry Free

Closing Date: 27-Feb-15

More information: or email or call 01865 286591.

The Society of Civil and Public Service Writers

Poems up to 40 lines, with each poem on a separate sheet. 1st prize £50; 2nd £25.  Entries should be typed on A4 paper. The competition is open only to SCPSW members. Those eligible include serving or retired members of the Civil Service, Armed Forces, National Health Service, Local Government, the Police Force or any Public Service.
Entry: £2 per poem

Closing Date: 28-Feb-15

More information:

HAD Poetry Competition

The title for the poem is ‘Honouring the Ancient Dead’ (a celebration of the ancestors on display up and down the country – but the theme may be interpreted as loosely as the entrant wishes).
Entry Free

Closing Date: 28-Feb-15

More information:

The Rialto – Nature Poetry Competition 2014

Theme: Nature Poetry. Prizes: 1st prize: £1000, 2nd £500, 3rd Prize: A Place on a Creative Writing Course at Ty Newydd in 2015 (worth £550). Additional prize, a personal tour with Mark Cocker in wild life places in East Anglia. The winning poems will be published in The Rialto, independent poetry magazine.
Entry: £6 for 1st poem £3.50 for each subsequent poem, up to six

Closing Date: 01-Mar-15

More information :

The Queen Mother Memorial Poetry Competition

Submit any number of poems on any subject,  typed/hand written in English. The poem(s) should follow the length and format as below, 3 verses, 3 lines per verse, 10 words per line. Winner gets £25 +The Queen Mother Memorial Poetry Competition complementary pen.
Entry Fee: £3 per poem or £10 for 4 poems

Closing Date: 30-Mar-15

More information:

Window On The World

Up to 25 lines (including blank lines) and 160 words each, prize £100, best of the rest will be published. Up to three poems per entrant. Unpublished work

Entry Free

Closing Date: 30-April-15

More information:

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Medieval Penguins and Red Velvet Cake (Interview)

Check out my very first interview as a blogger!

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Calling budding authors

Leeds Reads

The writing book: a practical guide for fiction writersA new debut novel competition has been launched by Janklow & Nesbit UK  in association with Mumsnet and Gransnet.
Users of Mumsnet and Gransnet are invited to submit the first 8,000 words of a novel, along with a 500-word outline of the remaining chapters by January 30th 2015. A shortlist will be selected, with the winner announced in March 2015.
As part of the competition, a one-day Get Published event will be held in London on Saturday 29th November, where writers will get a chance to meet Janklow & Nesbit agents, as well as editors and authors. There will be panel discussions and an opportunity to pitch directly to industry insiders.
Janklow & Nesbit UK said: “Mumsnet is a huge online community, generating over 60 million page views and over 13 million visits per month. We know from the success of their book club how engaged their members are…

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Are you a would be novelist? A new writing competition on ‘This Morning’

Leeds Reads

novel-writing competition is being launched today on “This Morning”. It’s  open to  unpublished authors, who can send in the first 30,000 words and a one-page synopsis from a novel or novel-in-progress. Judges will be author Marian Keyes, actress and TV Book Club panellist Caroline Quentin, and Jonny Geller, joint Chief Executive of Curtis Brown.

The winner will be announced live on This Morning and receive representation from a Curtis Brown agent and a free place on one of Curtis Brown Creative’s six-month novel-writing courses. Two runners-up will be offered meetings with a Curtis Brown agent.

Marian Keyes said: “I remember well the fear and trepidation of sending my first novel to an agent and publisher. I can’t wait to read the novels that come in to the competition – I hope it’ll be like delving in a treasure chest.”

Entrants must be 18 or over, living in the UK, Channel…

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Alone, Lisa Gardner

Alone is the second novel I’ve read by Lisa Gardner, and is part of her D.D. Warren and Bobby Dodge series (unrelated to Gone which is part of the Peirce Quincy series.)

In comparison to Gone I found Alone much harder to get into. I believe this to be because the events in Alone take place over a much longer period of time, therefore the pace of Alone is much slower than that of Gone. It was still a compelling novel, Gardner’s attention to detail continued to impress and eventually I found myself unable to put it down, but it certainly took much longer to get that point than when I was reading Gone.


Despite it being part of the D.D. Warren series, this book follows Bobby Dodge closely and D.D. Warren appears only intermittently. Perhaps reading the series in order would be better but unfortunately I had no concept of there being an order or different series in fact. The inside covers of Gardner novels do highlight her other works, but it does nothing to help the reader follow either series or any kind of order.

Moving on, Alone was fascinating in regards to its plot and character development. There were truly unexpected turn of events, plot twists which were described in a way which was just enough; never too much- making them believable and I would never have suspected them. Again, as in Gone, character development within Alone is a driving force in this novel. It flows easily within the plot, paragraphs are just the right length and descriptive passages are acute; with minor characters being used to add context to our major characters.

Crime thrillers are often so abundant with minor characters, police etc. thankfully I don’t feel that Gardner has fallen into this literary trap of the genre.

Alone produced some very strong emotions from me as a reader. There was plenty of death, murder and sexual tension. Raw emotion flowed from the characters such as Bobby Dodge and Catherine Gagnon and I felt the shock they felt, the fear they experienced and the drive to survive was so forcefully evident- it made me unable to put the book down. I kept willing those major characters to make that all important connection, to realise who the real threat was. Those parts in particular were very exciting to read.

One interesting technique Gardner has used in Alone, is that she never allows her readers to become completely trusting of any of the characters. One sentence, one action can change how you feel about a certain person. But in the next chapter you can be forced to re-think this opinion again and again. You are never wholly sure of who is bad and who is good; perhaps this is a reflection on the idea that people are a combination of both. By the end of the novel I was still unsure of Catherine Gagnon, and the answers and never fully revealed. But don’t worry this doesn’t leave you feeling too dissatisfied; there is enough resolution to whet a reader’s appetite.

Once more I strongly encourage you try Lisa Gardner’s work, but would wholly advocate that you try to reader the series in order, I don’t doubt this would improve your overall experience of Gardner and her characters.

© Gemma Feltham 2 November 2014

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