Celebrating book bloggers part one: Natalie

1) Hi Natalie! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Can you tell me more about yourself, and what are your three favourite things?

My name is Natalie, I’ve reached the big three-oh and I live in Manchester, England.

My three favourite things are chocolate, Christmas and my cats (don’t tell the boyfriend he didn’t make the list!)

2) Where can we find your blog and how long have you been reviewing? 

I have been blogging for two years and in that time I’ve read 124 books – not much compared to some but I’ve impressed myself with that!

3) Why did you start blogging?

I used to read all the time, mostly whilst enduring the long bus journey to and from work, but then a few years ago I started working somewhere just around the corner from my house, and when the bus journeys stopped so did the reading. I just didn’t find time to fit it in and then after a while I realised I didn’t know which books to choose anymore. After putting up with my moaning that I missed reading, at the end of 2011 my boyfriend suggested I set myself a challenge for 2012 to read 50 books. Going from nothing to 50 seemed like a ridiculous jump, but we’d just watched Julie & Julia so I thought it could work! I wasn’t sure about the idea of blogging, surely no one wanted to read my ramblings, but then I realised it would be a brilliant way to keep track of what I’d read so I gave it go.  And here I am two years later, still reading and reviewing, now the proud owner of to-be-read pile that I will never get to the end of!

4) What’s the best and worst thing about being a book reviewer?

The best thing has to be getting sent free books… I know that might sound shallow but when you’re in love with books and then an advance copy written by an author you love pops through the door you can’t help but get excited!

The worst thing for me is having to read to a timetable. I love finishing a book and then having the freedom to choose anything I want from my bookshelf to read next.  Sometimes knowing that I have to read something by a certain date takes the magic out of it a little bit.

5) What’s your favourite book of all time and why?

This is such a hard question…

I have a big soft spot for Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert as it’s one of the first books I read after my break from reading and it really inspired me to start picking up books again.  I love the spiritual side of the story and found it really inspiring.

Christmas would not be Christmas anymore without reading With Love At Christmas by Carole Matthews. It is everything I could ever have wished for from a Christmas book.

Chick-lit is a really hard to choose from because there are so many I like but I really did love Three Little Words – think you know wrote that one – because the story was so unexpected.  I picked it up expecting a cute fluffy read and instead got a fascinating page turner.  It made such a refreshing change.

For spine tingling stories it has to be Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson… I literally could not put it down, my heart was thumping and I was desperate to know what happened in the end.

Ooooh and then there’s series, in which case it has to be the ‘I Heart’ series by Lindsey Kelk. I am totally in love with Angela Clarke. In fact, I think I want to be her.

So there’s my top 5 – it’s just impossible to narrow it down to one – sorry!

6) How do you feel about books being made into films. Do you think this is a good thing?

I think this is a really good thing.  I love seeing books I have read being made into films, especially if I’ve forgotten some of the details and get to experience the story a second time by watching the film.  I love seeing the characters from the page of a book come to life on screen, even if they are not always how I would have imagined they could be.

And if watching a film can inspire someone to pick up a book they normally wouldn’t have read then that’s a great thing.

7) Do you prefer print books or ebooks and why?

It has to be print books.  Ebooks are great and I love my Kindle but it’s just not the same as breaking the spine of a new book (yes, I’m a spine breaker I admit it), watching my bookmark wander through a book and being able to pass a book I have loved on to friends.

8) If you don’t like a book, do you have to finish it? If so, why?

I have to finish a book.  I don’t even really know why, I’m just compelled to get to the end. Many a time I’ve sat there wondering why I’m still reading, just trying to plod through to the end but I just can’t give up on them once I’ve started.

9) How do you handle it when you have read a book you don’t like? Will you still review it? 

I review every book I’ve read whether I like it or not.  I think it’s important to tell the truth.  I review as if I’m telling a friend about a book; if it was brilliant then I’ll gush about it and tell them they have to read it. If I didn’t enjoy it then I tell them so, but I would never tell someone not to read a book.  Everyone likes different things so just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean someone else won’t, my review will just be much less enthusiastic. I like to be fair to the author so even if I don’t like it personally I will still write a review saying what the book is about and why people might like it.

Plus, if I only ever wrote reviews that said every book is amazing I’m sure it would get a bit boring to read.

Thanks Natalie!

You can connect with Natalie on Twitter – @Flutterbybat

Celebrating book bloggers…

Google definitionOver the next couple of weeks I’m putting the spotlight on independent book bloggers.

I’m planning to publish some interviews with reviewers here. This time it will be me asking all the questions!

Have you ever wondered how many books reviewers read in a week?

What do they do when they don’t like a book very much?

Or perhaps you’d like to know which book they rate as their all-time favourite when they have so many to choose from?

With the internet being a huge part of our lives, and new social media outlets popping up everywhere, we can be whoever we want to be. Twitter and Facebook have turned us into poets, stylists, photographers and comedians… We can have what we want in seconds, and everything’s so fast and instantly gratifying. But there’s something really quite special about people who are keeping books in focus while technology flourishes around us and everything picks up speed. Book bloggers are taking the traditional medium of books into the future.

Book bloggers know how technology and books can complement each other – novels, reading and how we consume fiction has to move with the times, but we must also treasure the heart of it all, and where it came from. Simply being lost between the pages of a good book when there is so much to tempt our concentration elsewhere.

A lot of the book reviewers I speak to are so passionate about what they do it’s inspiring.

Most of them have a lot happening outside reviewing, and it can be tough going when they’ve set themselves a schedule of books to read around the twists and turns of their own lives. But most of them just do it for the sheer love of reading.

I would have loved to have asked all the reviewers I’ve got to know to over the last few years, but I could only pick a small selection of people to speak to.

Ultimately I want to say a big thank you to all of them.

Without independent book reviewers and bloggers I don’t think we’d have such a fantastic the sense of community that we have in the book world. That’s a difficult thing to achieve. I’m grateful to them for encouraging reading in the general chaos of our lives, where our attention spans are under more demand than they ever have been before. I’m also grateful to them for all the support they give to writers, and for opening up debate and conversation about books between people all over the globe who may never meet face-to-face.

The first interview will be published on my blog at midday on Monday December 9.

But who will it be?


What’s with all the squirrels?

*SPOILER ALERT. Avoid this post if you haven’t read This is a Love Story*

When Sienna meets Nick it's not the way it happens in love stories. It's because of a squirrel on water skis...

When Sienna meets Nick it’s not the way it happens in love stories. It’s because of a squirrel on water skis…

I had a lovely conversation with a reader this week about the hidden surprises in my first book This is a Love Story.

If you’ve read This is a Love Story you may or may not have noticed them… There seems to be a 50/50 split between readers who pick up on it and those who don’t.

For those who are curious, *whispers* here comes the ‘spoiler’…. there are quite a lot of SQUIRRELS in the story…

They appear randomly throughout the book, never really playing much of a key role, but just running on the top of fences, looking cute with their fluffy tails and generally being awesome.

There have been several different reactions to these little surprises, ranging from mild irritation to sheer delight. But this week was really nice because a reader not only asked me directly what the squirrels meant, but also came up with her own pretty detailed (and very clever) theory.

I responded by saying that the squirrels mean whatever they mean to each individual reader. Now I know we are just talking about fictional squirrels here (let’s not take this too seriously!) and I know this is a little cheesy, but this got me thinking about reading and its wider context. It reminded me of something I have taken for granted for a while…

It struck me once more, that one of the most beautiful things about books, art and anything you really absorb in a similar way, is that it means something very special to you and that is often quite unique.

My own view is that people naturally react differently to fiction depending on their own personalities and life experiences, so ultimately the valid truth behind symbolism in a book is entirely subjective and belongs solely to the reader…

A writer could put one book out into the world and get a thousand different reactions to it. How do we ever know that a book we read makes someone else feel exactly how we did, even though as humans we share so many feelings in common? How do we know that the imagery the words conjure would be the same as it would for a person sitting next to us on the bus, reading the same chapter through different eyes?

Readers bring words to life in their own special way and as a writer it’s lovely to think about this, about all the different experiences and feelings your work might conjure in people, from passivity to joy, or even real sadness. You do some of the work, but readers take it somewhere else and I’m so grateful to the people who get in touch to tell me what their experience was like, and those who write reviews.

I want to thank the reader who took the time to share with me her own theory. I also spoke to someone who told me that he saw the squirrels as a symbol of experience. He highlighted (in a tongue-in-cheek way, of course) that in life you collect experiences – these are the ‘nuts’ – and then like a squirrel, you stash them away until some time in the future, when you might want to go back to those experiences again, and do something better (or differently).

I thought that was lovely too.

In truth, the squirrels in This is a Love Story came about accidentally.

My editor mentioned to me that a few were popping up and I didn’t even realise I was doing it… It was totally subconscious. We decided to keep them in because we liked them, and I’m really glad I did because today they reminded me of something wonderful about literature. Something that had, shamefully, passed me by recently.

If you want to go on a This is a Love Story squirrel hunt, or you know someone who likes squirrels too… the Kindle ebook is available through Amazon at the moment for just 99p.

This offer ends early next week.

Three Little Words is published in Germany…

coverI’m so excited to tell you that my second novel Three Little Words was published in Germany yesterday.

I was delighted when I saw the cover… I think the sketch-style pictures are gorgeous, there are some London landmarks on there too…

I’m really grateful to Bastei Lübbe, my publisher in Germany for giving it such a fab jacket.

The novel is called Ein Tag Im März, which translates to ‘One Day in March’.

Three Little Words was released in paperback in the UK in August this year. You can find out more about it here.


P.S If you are looking for a book bargain, my debut book This is a Love Story is still just 99p via Amazon Kindle until December 3…


The best sites for procrastinating

Sometimes, when I’m nervous about an impending task (e.g. cleaning the flat/final book edits/difficult university essay) I become worryingly proficient in the art of procrastinating.

I can’t be the only one who has this problem, what with the invention of special software to block sites that draw people away from their focus. There seems to already be a fair demand for this anti-faffing ‘rehab’, so I’m glad I’m not alone.

In addition to this, Facebook seems to have swung from the usual attention-seeking statuses such as “well at least I know who my real friends are now” to timelines plastered with links of cats posing like male models and pigs in teacups. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or not…

Even the wonderful Zadie Smith has been talking about this, and she’s basically a genius. See point 7 in this article.

I know I shouldn’t encourage anyone… but here are some of my favourite sites for moments of procrastination…

1) The Procatinator

A friend introduced me to this site. Please be warned that he also now has to use software that keeps him focused and not looking at cats DJing. I sincerely hope he ‘recovers’ soon.

Do you like cats? (Probably.) Do you like eighties music? (I hope so.)

Well there you have it. Tons of GIFs showing cats doing all sorts of things from giving their humans a high five to cuddling up to a dog – all set to music.

Very odd. I don’t really understand it and probably never truly will. But you have to see it. (Requires flash.)

2) Hyperbole and a half.

I’ve written about this site before in more detail. In a nutshell, Allie Brosh creates cartoon-style stories on her blog that are seriously funny. 

She has one particular post about depression that I found moving as well. I think anything that enables society to talk about mental health with empathy and positivity is always going to be a good thing. That particular post is one of the best things I’ve seen on the subject recently.

It’s a real skill to mix humour and sadness in the way Allie does so successfully.

3) Cake Wrecks

Cooking/baking is sadly not my forte.

Those who follow me on Twitter will have recently seen a picture I posted of a chicken and leek pie I tried to make recently. It exploded in the oven. The result was bad enough that one of my friends felt moved to post the lyrics to the Ghostbusters theme tune below the picture on Facebook. Enough said.

So, it brings me great pleasure to see that I’m not the only one who is useless at this stuff, and also there is the added pleasure of spotting spelling mistakes immortalised in brightly coloured icing. Doh!

4) Anything to do with space on Youtube.

I’m a little bit obsessed with space. I’m not going to lie.

I spend way too much time watching videos about the International Space Station and have seen in-depth pieces on how astronauts wash their hair to how a great burrito is crafted in zero gravity… I’ve probably acquired a large amount of useless information through this given that I’ll never go to space EVER, but it’s so much fun…

5) Rathergood.com

This one’s been around for ages.

In fact I think I first discovered this site when I was in sixth form. I remember crying with laughter while playing ‘We Like The Moon’ over and over again with a group of equally hysterical friends (simple things).

That particular video doesn’t have quite the same effect on me now, but I still love it. I’ve not watched many of the videos on this site, so can’t speak for all of them, but some of them are hilarious if you’re in the right mood. (Avoid watching when you are grumpy/cold/hungry/generally angry with the world).

Looking for my Leopard is also very cute. There’s singing chinchillas on pogo sticks… What more could you ask for?

So there we have it. Some of my favourite websites for doing nothing when I should be doing something. What are yours?

Right then… I better get back to work… *ahem*

Could these be my favourite books of 2013?

2013 has been a good book year.

I’ve read several memorable titles, and as the end of the year approaches I’m starting to think about which have been the best. It’ll be a tough choice!

There are two novels I’ve read recently that have been more than just great stories – they have inspired me. I’m in that limbo phase where I’m finishing up editing book three and just about to start planning the next, so it was great to read two novels in close succession that made me desperate to start writing book four…

I think either of these could be my favourite book this year!

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

1) The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence.

I know I’m a little bit late to the party (it was released in May), but I loved it.

If you haven’t read this yet please, please grab a copy now and clear some time in your diary to get lost in this beautiful book for a few hours.

I was attracted to it partly because the cover is awesome and also because the blurb was so inviting… “Alex Woods knows that he hasn’t had the most conventional start in life. He knows that growing up with a clairvoyant single mother won’t endear him to the local bullies. He also knows that even the most improbable events can happen – he’s got the scars to prove it.” 

That’s a damn good blurb.

What I discovered upon reading was a moving, complex plot that tackles a sensitive and controversial issue, and yet somehow Extence writes this in a blissfully clear and easy-to-read voice. I was hooked, completely. I read it late into the night, and woke up early in the morning to continue reading because I was desperate to know what would happen to Alex.

I won’t give too much away, but eccentric protagonist Alex has gone through something remarkable that has led to a strange kind of fame that follows him wherever he goes. This, naturally, makes life difficult because as Alex highlights – “In secondary school, being different is the worst crime you can commit.” He then sparks up an unlikely friendship that leads him to his greatest adventure yet.

Things I loved about this book… (Where to start) It made me think so much that I got a book hangover, Alex is a likeable outcast (I love characters like him), the mystery throughout is gripping, and it is a book about bravery and fighting for what you know is right – against all odds.

Alex Woods’ character is written by Extence so skilfully that he is the perfect narrative voice – I couldn’t imagine it any other way. The author manages to capture the naivety of youth with the bravery and boldness it possesses that often melts away in adulthood. The descriptions of bullying are so spot on you start to feel upset on his behalf (it took me back to some of my own tough times when I was a kid), and his dilemma is sensitively explained and played out in a plot that keeps you guessing.

Absolutely. Loved. It.

Thank you Gavin Extence for writing this book!

2) The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty.

The Husband's Secret - Liane Mortiarty

The Husband’s Secret – Liane Mortiarty

The Husband’s Secret was published in August this year and has been everywhere. I knew that when I had a spare moment I just had to read it too.

Mother of three Cecilia Fitzpatrick discovers an old envelope in the attic. Her husband’s writing on the outside of the letter says – “to be opened only in the event of my death.” Curious, she opens it – and time stops. John-Paul’s letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

It took me a little while to get into this book because there are a few plot lines running side-by-side at first and it requires some concentration, but as the stories start to melt together the real tension begins. From then on, it’s almost impossible to put down.

I genuinely didn’t expect the twists and turns in this plot (and there are a few). It’s so cleverly written and Moriarty’s style is quite unique. Some of her descriptions are really unusual and I loved that.

I liked how the different plots became intertwined and you started to see how different decisions would affect people, and the shockwaves that would result. Cecilia’s dilemma is the stuff of nightmares, but how will she handle it? What would have happened if she’d never discovered the letter? How much are you prepared to stick by someone you love?

The Husband’s Secret reminded me a little of Gone Girl. This book was a fast moving page turner that I would highly recommend to anyone who loves a bit of suspense…

Pssst! This is a Love Story special offer…

Over on Twitter I promised there would be some exciting news for those who haven’t yet read my first book This is a Love Story.

Well… Here it is. Deep breath. Drumroll please…


This is a Love Story will be available for just 99 PENCE from the Amazon Kindle shop from Tuesday November 5 until the end of the day on Monday December 2. This is part of the Kindle 100 monthly book offer.

Yes, that’s right, just ninety nine pennies!

Here are some other things you can get for 99p* (or less) that aren’t, in my opinion, anywhere near as awesome as a book.

1) Eight and a bit 12p bananas. (Lots of potassium, granted, but not as good as a book…)

2) One tin of baked beans and pork sausages. (Each to their own.)

3) One dried packet pasta meal with sauce that you just add water to. (Meh…)

4) A value pack of ready-baked Yorkshire puddings. (Are they as good as your nan’s though?)

5) A tinned fruit cocktail in syrup. (Yaaawwwwnnn.)

So there we go. It’s a whole book and it’s mega cheap. We’ve established it’s a pretty good deal.

All you have to do is head to the Kindle eBook store anytime from November 5 to December 2 and download away!

I hope you enjoy…



Did I mention it’s only 99p?

*Prices very approximate at the time of randomly Googling and for giggle purposes only.