This morning for no particular reason I feel grateful. I did not plan to think about the good things in my life when I sat down with my cup of tea with only the Christmas tree for company but with its lights shining and the house silent I felt a glimmer of calm. For that moment, the worries about bills, health, relationships and how to stretch a shoestring budget over Christmas fell away. I could see the good I have and achievements made this year.
My grateful list:
The morning hug I will get from my daughter
Waking early to see the stunning night sky
The welcome from my dog as I have left him for five minutes
The taste of the first cup of tea and this time of year
The parts of Christmas which matter the tree, music, friends and family.
Old friends and new ones
The arrival of Christmas cards
Opening the advent calendar – you are never to old for one
Winning nano – that feeling will keep me going for a while
Winning NaNo coaching from Megg
An unexpected lottery win of £25
The book I won from Erin Green The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm
The moment of calm has grown with my list, life is good and I am ready to fight another day. When life’s problems have snowballed and triggered an avalanche of emotions, it is easy to forget the good, the tiny things or incidents throughout the day which if given care are seeds of strength to get you through the crap.
Overnight the best news broke – Quick Reads, the charity which helps adult literacy has been saved by none other than the wonderful author – Jojo Moyes! Jojo Moyes is the best selling author of Me before You.
Quick Reads is a series of books released every year, written by top authors, such as Jojo Moyes designed to be accessible to those less confident in reading. They are a gateway to reading as an adult which leads to mental health benefits, access to further education, confidence building and brings people into the book community. The difference these books can make was written about in my previous post.
It is wonderful she has stepped in when others didn’t and many will be forever grateful.
Thank you Jojo Moyes, and look forward to more Quick Reads in the future.
I am currently reading Coffee Break Companion, a collection of short stories, poems, and work by S L Grigg. The title says it all – this book is ideal to read on a coffee break or those moments in the day when you can snatch a few moments to read. Book review will be with you shortly.
Sharon Grigg, who writes under the pen name S.L Grigg, made it her new year’s resolution to publish her book ‘Coffee Break Companion’ during 2018. After bouncing back from mental health problems following the death of her husband from a brain tumour in 2009, Sharon was struck down with kidney and other health problems, believed to be linked to having the Essure sterilisation device she had implanted back in 2008. In September 2017 she underwent major surgery to have a non-functioning hydronephrotic kidney removed at the same time as a full hysterectomy to remove the essure device.
Just two months after setting her goal Sharon launched the collection of dark, short stories and poetry on Amazon. Many of the stories were written during Sharon’s battle with mental health.
41-year-old mother of two, Sharon says “For me publishing was never about, money or fame. I just wanted to be able to hold a copy of my book and say, ‘I wrote this’ and now I can.”
Meet S.L Grigg
I am pleased to say Sharon has joined me today for a natter and a cup of tea to discuss her book, writing among other things.
Kate Kenzie: What is your favourite book?
S.L Grigg:Oh, so many to choose from, I’m sure it changes all the time depending on what is my favourite of the things I have read recently. I don’t think I could choose just one all-time favourite. In that respect I kind of envy those who have a clear favourite like Harry Potter fans, or something. I have a few favourite series, like the OtherWorld Series by Kelley Armstrong and The Hollows series by Kim Harrison. I guess my current favourite book would be Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty, loved it and the show, and the soundtrack! Can’t wait for Season two of the show!
Kate Kenzie: I love that series by Kelley Armstrong, though I was disappointed by the TV version, Bitten on SYFY. My favourite characters are Jeremy and Paige. Who are yours?
S.L Grigg: I agree the series didn’t live up to the books in Bitten, my favourite characters are Savannah and Paige.
Kate Kenzie: Who is your favourite author?
S.L Grigg:As above really, so many in addition to those mentioned I also love James Patterson, Adam Baker, Dean Koontz and many more
Kate Kenzie: What is your favourite drink to have next to you while you write?
S.L Grigg:Whilst I am writing I will usually have water or tea (white, two sweeteners, must be the colour of He-Man to be right, don’t leave the tea bag in too long, I don’t like it mashed!)
Kate Kenzie: Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
S.L Grigg: I guess it is a little, I like to write quite dark, thriller type stories with a hint of fantasy or sci-fi and I do read a lot of books with those types of themes. You would be hard pushed to catch me writing or reading and enjoying romance/chick-lit or historical, even the classics, I’m not a fan of overly elaborate writing, long flowery words and excessively heavy description put me off, so I wouldn’t write that way either.
Kate Kenzie: Where is your favourite place to read or write?
S.L Grigg:Curled up on the sofa, with the family around, we might not be talking as we will often all be buried in our own reading, writing or laptops, but it’s nice to just be together 😊
Kate Kenzie: When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
S.L Grigg: I started writing as a child, at 11 I wrote my first full story (which features in Coffee Break Companion) and I also wrote a collection of illustrated stories based on the Puffalumps back then. Being published came about as it had always been my dream to be able to hold an actual book and say ‘I wrote this’ so I set it as my New Year Resolution for 2018 (I don’t’ normally do resolutions) and within 2 months I had made it happen!
Kate Kenzie: If you have a genre you write, how did you begin writing in this style?
S.L Grigg:As above, I write in a few and I think they are influenced by what I enjoy reading myself. I think if I would enjoy reading it, I can write it, and that’s generally what I do, write things I would enjoy reading.
Kate Kenzie: You have had a lot of health problems, has being chronically ill influenced your writing and changed its direction?
S.L Grigg:When I was suffering with my mental health writing was like therapy for me, I blogged like crazy at that time and wrote a huge amount about my personal experiences and understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder, it helped a lot in my recovery. I needed to understand my condition to overcome it. Many of my other health problems I’ve not written about much, but I think I will probably write more eventually. I have put much of my BPD writing together so I could publish that as a book if I can get round to tidying it up and finishing it off!
Kate Kenzie:I love your poems My BPD Existence, Don’t and your short story Loneliness. Reading your poems and stories many of them are emotional and feel personal, did you find it difficult to share these in your book?
S.L Grigg: Yeah, A lot of my stories and poems come from personal experience, I’m comfortable with sharing them, and my next book will be about BPD from my own experience from discovery to recovery from the condition
I was instantly attracted to The Hazel Wood by its dark foreboding cover and intriguing blurb so was pleased when I was given an advanced copy to review by NetGalley and the publishers Penguin Random House UK.
Title The Hazel Wood
Author Melissa Albert
Publisher Penguin Random House UK Children’s Penguin
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .
Fairy Tales have always intrigued me. Not your saccharine sweet Disney versions but the dark, complex tales passed down the generations by the spoken word before they were captured in print by Perrault and The Grimm Brothers when they provided entertainment lessons for the community.
The Hazel Wood has the elements of these original stories which create a unique dark YA novel. It has all parts of a book I tend to fall hopelessly in love with – mystery, secrets, dusty bookshops and a book central to the plot with a twist of magic. It may not have grabbed me as much as I hoped (my expectations were maybe too high) but I enjoyed this well written, quirky novel. It was easy to fall into the adventure with Alice as she followed clues with the aid of Finch, a huge fan of her Grandmothers works to search for her mother. Alice’s nomadic childhood has been blighted by a string of bad luck which has made her have an extremely close relationship with her mum, Ella and it is this bond that holds the plot together. Alice is not the most pleasant character with a tendency for uncontrollable anger leading me to question her actions at times but they are in keeping with her personality. There are many unique characters dotted throughout the story, linked together by the fairy tales written by her grandmother. It is surreal read especially part two which I found reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.
Would I recommend?
I enjoyed it so would recommend it to those who love Caraval by Stephanie Garber or darker YA tales.
I don’t know about you but when I am reading my brain makes connections between characters and objects that are impossible to break. For example, bumble bee tights will always be associated with Louisa Clarke, red shoes are Dorothy’s unless they are ballet slippers and then they belong to Hans Christian Andersen’s ballerina. Sometime it is places, the Yorkshire Moors will always conjure up images from The Bronte sisters but most of all it is food.
Food plays a large part of my bookworm life. Not only are there cookery sections on shelves to tempt me, fiction is littered with references to it. It is a dieter’s nightmare. No one writes about being ecstatic over a carrot except Eric Carles in The Hungry Caterpillar but he was excited to eat everything. While reading, my taste buds tingle, my mouth salivates and my stomach grumbles along with the characters until my will power shatters. I have been known to eat cheese on toast, bacon butties and cake at midnight purely because of a book I was reading. I am glad I live in a tiny village with no open takeaways otherwise I will be eating chips too. It adds a whole new dimension to the eating and reading experience. To feel the velvety texture and warmth as chocolate melts in your mouth at the same time as your current heroine is divine. Or to rip into a freshly baked loaf while indulging into the adventures of Polly Waterford in the Little beach Street Bakery . Some authors are more responsible for my unhealthy eating habits than others and have perfected the art of food descriptions to a tee. Eating is a multi-sensory experience and talented authors capture that so turn the pages into a scene from Nigella Lawson cookery programme. They make me taste, feel and smell the food. No wonder I find my diet impossible to stick to.
Sometimes it makes me more adventurous, to try something new. I remember as a teenager fantasizing about Twinkies (I tried them last year and sorry they weren’t as nice as I imagined) and being fascinated by fried chicken, cornbread and potato salad that would always be taken to barbeques on 4th July, especially in Nora Roberts books. While I can leave the chicken and cornbread potato salad has become one of my must-haves in the summer now. Every Autumn I buy a pumpkin insistent this will be the year I find a pumpkin pie recipe that lives up to the mind-blowing experience described in many books.
Fried breakfasts in cafes always remind me of Diana in The Discovery of Witches where she is served mounds of it after a rowing session. Pouring loose leaf tea from a pot reminds me of Marthe in the same series. Jelly Tots will be forever linked to Lily from Sunflowers in February and although hot chocolate is a favourite of many, it will always associated with Taryn Leigh’s description in Perfect Imperfections. The way she makes it is heaven. Baking occurs in many books for its relaxing properties and business opportunities and I am always grateful to kind authors who supply recipes in the final pages. I have not made many but there is a sense of comfort knowing if I want to I can indulge, just like character x on page 45.
Authors and books that tingle the taste buds
Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Jenny Colgan – all of her books. Visits to the traditional sweet shop visits will always be connected to Rosie’s Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams.
Isabella May tempted me with cake in Oh What a Pavlova and now she is delving into the world of cocktails with The Cocktail Bar which is out this month. I need to stock up on the Blue Curacao.
Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey for its tempting Cornish apple turnovers
Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland – chips at Whitby are bliss.
Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Definitely not The Twits nor George’s Marvellous Medicine.
When I think of my own WIP, food connections are lacking unless you count the warm spicy Parkin baked for Amber’s dragon hunting adventures or Mrs M’s cookies left on the side as a treat. No one would suddenly crave rabbit stew or fried Ellfaenian grubs so maybe in my next project, food should play a central part. Researching woud be fun.
What food do you connect with characters? Does the mention of food enhance your experience of the book?
A new month and a step closer to Spring. I love winter for the excuse of snuggling under the duvet with a good book but I long for sunshine and cheery flowers now. Rather than weekly updates on the books I am reading, I have decided to do monthly ones – hopefully, they will be easier to keep track of and more time to focus on writing.
Last books I read in January
Life got in the way of updating last week but I finished reading:
It’s the beginning of another week and more books are being lifted from my TBR pile. After last week’ s reading of The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, and Jennifer Gilmour’s Isolation Junction these are the books I plan to read:
The One by John Marrs. This has been out a while but I have patiently waited my turn on the library reservation list. I first heard about it on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Book Club and the premise of dating based on DNA testing had me hooked.
Clipped Wings by Jennifer Gilmour. After reading Isolation Junction, which is a fictional account of domestic abuse (eye-opening, worrying and uplifting book) I decided to try her second book. This is a collection of survivor’s stories on their experiences of domestic abuse.
Forget her Name by Jane Holland, in time for next week’s blog tour.
Write Smart, Write Happy by Cheryl St. John. I am jumping into this after receiving a digital ARC from NetGalley. Will I be a happier writer and will my technique improve once I have finished it? I will find out soon.