Tag Archives: reviews

Getting to Know You: Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group Blog

When I went to read at Edinburgh Noir at the Bar at the end of last month, I went for a meal with all the participants prior to the event. I sat beside the lovely Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group blog. I’d never met Kelly before but we chatted for a while and found that we had loads in common. 

Kelly and I have become fast friends and I am pleased to welcome her to the blog today. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kelly – I know how busy you are! 

Vic x


Tell us about your blog, Kelly.
My blog is in its sixth month, we review books, festivals and theatre productions. We review mostly works of fiction. I have two guest bloggers who help me and it means our readers get a varied voice on the daily posts. We are also always on social media.

What inspired it?
My blog was born after my mother had been quite ill and I was spending a tremendous amount of time at the doctors or in hospital waiting rooms. To fill my time and escape from the noise and fear around me, I would dive head first into books. I may have been sat in a cold and sterile environment but my mind was off on exciting and addictive adventures. When I finished the books, I wanted to talk to people about them and say how they made me feel.  That’s when I started the tiny few clicks to find out about blogging. I did not know it would be life changing for me.

I started a very basic blog and wrote my reviews and I got excellent feedback, I then took more time to research the various types of blogs that there were. I contacted Joanne from Portobello Book Blog and I really gained a lot of knowledge about WordPress and blogging. Joanne was very positive and supportive. I will always be very grateful for all her help and for keeping me right with names!

Then I realised I really had to follow up my blog with social media. So that took off too and now I am posting from the blog everyday.

There is a Disney song from the movie Aladdin, it’s called ‘A Whole New World’ and it really captures what my blog has done to me life. Shining, shimmering and splendid, is right.

What’s been your favourite blog assignment and why?
I was honoured to be one of CoastWords Chosen Bloggers for 2017. It was an eye-opening experience.  It meant a lot of travelling and time. But it was totally worth it. I really learnt a lot and it was lovely to meet an array of varied people.

How do you choose what to feature on your blog?
I really have an issue saying no to authors and publishers. Hence the need for me to have two guest reviewers.  We are slowly working through our TBR pile and interviews, all of which will get on the blog at some point.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
In relation to my blog, my father always says to make sure I stay true to myself. Not to be influenced by other people and to remember that my light is just as bright as everyone else’s. Most days as he’s leaving for work he shouts upstairs ‘Remember to sparkle’. 

What can readers expect from your blog?
They can expect reviews with a soul.

Have you got any advice for aspiring bloggers?
Do your research on the various blogs and find your perfect fit.

What do you like and dislike about blogging?
I love blogging, I wake up and I am excited about it. The day I don’t, well, I guess that will be the day I dislike it.

What’s your favourite blogging-related moment?
Coming 2nd in the ABBA Awards 2017 for Newcomer, I didn’t even expect to place. It really meant the world to me.

How can people get in touch with you?
If you would like to feature on the blog with an interview, review or #Favfive then please read our review policy and use the contact form on the blog

You can also find us on: Twitter, Instagram,  Facebook.

What’s next?
We have lots of reviews and interviews coming up on the blog. In the near future we have The Edinburgh Book Festival, Berwick Lit Festival and Bloody Scotland.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog today Victoria, I am honoured and delighted.

Sparkles and smiles,

Kelly xoxo

Review of 2016: Bernie Steadman

Today we have Bernie Steadman on the blog to review her year. By all accounts, it’s been a corker but you don’t need to hear that from me – allow Bernie to sum up her 2016 for you!

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My first novel, Death and Deception came out right at the end of 2015, so it was in January 2016 that I first read reviews from people I didn’t know, about a book I had created. It was a special moment and the fulfilment of a dream. The second in the series, Death and The Good Son, came out on the 9th December this year, and my favourite part of that process was having a launch with so many friends, a glass or two of prosecco, some signings, some sales… it was a great afternoon!

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I’m an Iyengar Yoga devotee, and in May I went to Crete for a week long retreat with a brilliant teacher. The venue: 30 yards from the beach. The yoga: challenging, and in every way, stretching! The food: delicious home-made Cretan delights; yogurt, fruit and vegetables from the garden. The weather: warming nicely by the end of the week to 30 degrees. The sea: warm enough to swim. Reader, I wept like a baby when I had to come home…

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Favourite book in 2016?
So tough. I’ve read so many. I loved ‘The Rosie Project‘ by Graeme Simsion, and the first in the ‘Brilliance‘ sci-fi series by Marcus Sakey. Debut authors; I have to recommend Angela Corner’s ‘The Hidden Island‘. Heleyne Hammersley’s ‘Fracture‘ was good, and I mustn’t forget the magical, wonderful, ‘Ghostbird‘ by Carol Lovekin.

Favourite film in 2016?
Dr Strange‘, with the delectable Benedict Cumberbatch. Love a bit of Sci-fi, and will see ‘Rogue 1‘ before the end of the year, no doubt.

Favourite song of the year?
Emilie Sande, ‘Hurts‘. She’s a fabulous singer; you can hear her soul in her voice.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Personally it’s been a fantastic year, but so many of our icons have died this year that I think it is tinged with a little sadness for everybody.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Well, I have a new novel to write, starting January 1st

What are you hoping for from 2017?
A safe world, in which difference doesn’t spark xenophobia. I’m going for spontaneous acts of kindness, and smiling at strangers!

Review of 2016: Dawn Tindle

Today the lovely Dawn Tindle joins us to review her year. Dawn is a familiar face on the literary scene not only in the North East but beyond. Her blog – Book and Brew – has been nominated for a UK Blog Award. This is no mean feat considering Dawn only set her blog up in April this year.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Dawn on several occasions this year and I’m really happy to host her as part of the 2016 reviews.

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
I set up my blog, Book and Brew, in April this year and have spent the rest of 2016 developing it. The memory of firsts – blog post, comment, retweet – are pretty vivid and it still gives me a real buzz to see my words published online or shared by other readers.

My book club was also selected by The Reading Agency as an official shadow judge for both the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and Man Booker Prize. It was a huge coup for us and a very exciting experience for all members. It’s the defining moment that turned me from an enthusiastic reader to a book blogger.


And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
Seeing my boyfriend, Stephen, graduate in July was really special. He took five years out to retrain as a social worker and I was very proud, and slightly teary, to see him collect his degree. Getting his results via phone as we sat in a beach bar in Croatia the month before is also a memory I’ll treasure.

Favourite book in 2016?
Oh, this is always such a difficult question to answer. It wasn’t published this year but we read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life at book club in March and I loved it. Atkinson’s writing completely absorbs me and this story is a particularly poignant and gripping tale.

Favourite film in 2016?
There are two films that I watched recently that really impressed me. I, Daniel Blake is a stunning film, providing a stark look at the reality of austerity in the UK. It’s hard to watch, harrowing and heartbreaking but the humanity of the characters shines through. I highly recommend it.

The other was Allied. It’s a World War II drama about spies who meet on the job, marry and then one of them is suspected of working undercover for the Nazis. It’s full of twists and keeps you guessing throughout. And, the costumes are utterly fabulous – there’s nothing quite like 40s glamour to make you hate everything in your contemporary wardrobe!


Favourite song of the year?
Given the number of great musicians who’ve passed away this year, I’ve been listening to a lot of vintage tracks rather than new music in 2016.

However, I did discover Michael Kiwanuka and his album Love and Hate. It’s a beautiful collection of bluesy guitar and soulful vocals that I can listen to again and again.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Probably being too busy. I have a tendency to take on too much and that was certainly the case in the first few months of setting up my blog. I assumed I needed to read every book and be at every event in order to write relevant, topical content. I soon burned out and had to find a way to juggle my ‘proper’ job (a full-time, busy office gig), friends, family and blogging. I think I’ve finally cracked it and developed a schedule that works for me.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I usually say “to read more” but I don’t think I need that one anymore! I want to try my hand at creative writing so 2017 will be the year I give it a go.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
More of the same, I think. I had no idea where my blog would go in 2016 and I’m really pleased with how much I’ve achieved and how far it’s developed since my first few posts. If I can maintain the same attitude – of always seeking out new opportunities and trying new things – I hope I can grow Book and Brew even further in 2017. Where that growth will take me is anyone’s guess – that’s what makes a new year so exciting!

Review of 2016: Chris Ord

Regular readers of this blog will recognise Chris Ord, author of the phenomenal novel ‘Becoming‘ which has stunned readers worldwide.

It was such a joy to attend Chris’s book launch last month and I’m really proud to have been involved in ‘Becoming‘. Thanks to Chris for sharing his 2016 with us! 

Vic x

Becoming

Do you have a favourite moment professionally from 2016?
On September 23rd I published my first novel ‘Becoming’. I’d always wanted to write a book, and after years of reviews and changes at work I was offered the option to take redundancy. I saw the opportunity to do what I’d always wanted and went for it. Some close family members had passed away and it made me realise you have to grab chances when they come.

It was daunting sitting down on day one, but I saw the opportunity to write as a privilege. I create my own worlds every day, and there was something exciting about sitting in front of a blank screen and facing endless opportunities. I hear many writers speak of the tyranny of the blank page, but I prefer to think of its possibilities.

The day of publication was magical. I was fizzing with the excitement of achievement, the realisation of a life’s ambition. There were mixed emotions though. There was the pride and satisfaction, but the apprehension too. Once the book was out I knew I was revealing my creation to others – friends, relatives, and strangers. I was exposing a bit of my soul. It was the time for judgement and thick skin. I tried to keep a sense of perspective. I loved writing ‘Becoming’ and if others love it too that is a bonus. I wanted to write a story that I would enjoy reading, one that engages and entertains, but also challenges and provokes. If I achieve any combination of these I’ll be happy. I’m delighted to say the feedback and reviews have been excellent so far. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. Interest in the book is growing and after only two months it has a bit of momentum already.

The most rewarding thing has been how many people respect my courage in taking the risk and going for it. I hope that what I’ve done has inspired others to do the same. I’m a great believer in finding what you love and doing it. We see those memes on social media all the time about seizing the day and making your dreams happen. Maybe we see them too often now and they’ve lost their impact. The message is still true though. Just remind yourself and have the bravery and belief to go for it.

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How about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
On a personal level I’ve had a dream year with many highlights. However, I’m a musician and music will always be my first love. Therefore, my favourite moments are the musical ones.

I play the horn in my home village band, Jayess Newbiggin. This year the band were crowned both Durham League and Regional Champions and represented the North East at the National Finals in Cheltenham in September. Those achievements were all something to be very proud of, however, my favourite moment was playing at Sage 1 in Gateshead in support of Mnozil Brass, the world’s leading brass ensemble. Working with the BAIT project at Woodhorn museum we performed a new commission called ‘Reflection Connections.’ It was written by world-renowned brass composer Lucy Pankhurst and involved all the South East Northumberland brass bands – Ashington, Bedlington, Ellington, and Jayess Newbiggin. Our first performance was alongside Mnozil Brass at the Northumberland Miner’s Picnic in June, and we followed this with a second performance at the Sage the next evening. It’s been a personal ambition to play Sage One and it was a joy to give life to Lucy’s magnificent music alongside my fellow band musicians in Northumberland. Life is about making memories, and this was one of the special ones.

sage-performance

Favourite book in 2016?
M Train’ by Patti Smith. I read a lot of biographies and music is my first love hence I tend to gravitate towards the memoirs of musicians. Patti Smith is one of rock’s great lyricists and poets, only surpassed by Dylan and Cohen in my view. Her lyrical and poetic style feeds into her gorgeous, seductive prose. She’s led a fascinating life and captivates with her anecdotes and observations. I love seeing how my heroes developed, what motivates them, their flaws. Unlike many memoirs Smith doesn’t sanitise her life, her truth, honesty, and punk spirit shine through. She opens her soul and draws you into her world. Her music is powerful, but words are her true gift. I’ve seen her perform a few times, and was fortunate to see her at Sage 2 a few years ago on the tour to promote the first memoir ‘Just Kids.’ It’s one of my favourite books, and she was mesmerising, mixing readings and discussion with old songs, giving one of the most charismatic and engaging performances I’ve seen. I recommend both her memoirs, but start with ‘Just Kids.’ As for her albums ‘Horses,’ it’s one of the greatest debut albums of all.

Favourite film in 2016?
I, Daniel Blake.’ If you haven’t seen this film, please do. It’s a deeply moving, and unsettling film which asks a simple question – is this the kind of society we want to live in? Art is a mirror that reflects life. Sometimes we don’t like what we see, and what we have become. Perhaps it’s easier to turn away and pretend we don’t see. I left the cinema feeling anger and shame. We can be better than this. We have to be.

I struggled to think of anything else for days. There was anger and shame, but also guilt. I didn’t create the brutality of the modern welfare system, but nor have I done enough to make myself aware of it, try to change it. Politics is too often putting the cross on the paper then either gloating or ranting on social media depending on the outcome. Politics should be about people. The people we elect, the people they serve, the people we live alongside in communities. People. Not just you and me, but all of us. Those seen and unseen. We’re all someone’s son or daughter.

The truth is I don’t do enough, but I will change. I want to. The most rewarding things I’ve done in my life have not been for financial gain. I’ve come to learn the simple act of giving is the most rewarding of all. It doesn’t have to be money, often it’s better to give time, or share a skill you may be lucky to have. I don’t know what I will do yet, but the new year beckons with new opportunities.

I, Daniel Blake’ is the best of films. It re-energised the anger of my youth. I know that I don’t want to be a part of the society I saw. Nor do I want to sit back and wait for politicians to make the change. They have a responsibility, but so do I.

What was your big adventure in 2016?
The family went to Iceland for two weeks in the Easter holidays. It’s a magical place, quirky and odd, but full of mystery and beauty. It reminds you of nature’s wonder and its danger. The people are dynamic, friendly and very creative.  It is a place to feel inspired. One in ten of the population have published a book. There is street art everywhere. Reykjavik is one of the most intimate capital cities I’ve been to. It feels alive and owned by the people. They engage in city life and the atmosphere is unique.

It’s a country being born in every sense. Parts are like the moon. It has glaciers and snow-capped volcanoes, and the earth breathing fire and steam. There are waterfalls with rainbows, and beaches of black sand. We swam in lagoons in meadows, sat by frozen crystal lakes, and drank from mountain streams. We watched the night sky dance with rivers of green. We experienced some unforgettable things, and learnt about an ancient seafaring culture that many of us in the North are descended from. It was something that is very important to share as a family, one of those unforgettable holidays. I will return someday, I’m sure of that.

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Any downsides for you in 2016 generally?
The death of David Bowie. It’s hard to put into words how much Bowie means to me. Like so many I was devastated when he died. It was a shock, but it was also perfect Bowie, so beautifully orchestrated. Even in death he was a star. They named a constellation after him. How perfect. Billy Bragg has a theory that Bowie held the Universe together, and everything is collapsing since his death. The world has changed, the stars look different.

It was moving to see the tributes, how much he touched people’s lives. Whether you loved his music or not something you love was influenced and shaped by Bowie. I hear and see it in so much of popular music. He changed everything. He was a true creative visionary and though the term genius is often over-used, of the few that deserve the title Bowie is one.

How do you deal with that kind of loss, of someone you have never met, but has played such a huge part in your life? Someone who has made you laugh and cry, shaped who you are. I did meet David Bowie once. We were in an arena with a few thousand others, but he sang to me, only me, I’m sure of that. We all are. If life is a gift then so is death. It teaches us that life is precious, it shakes us from the mediocre and the mundane, it reminds us to live. It also helps us reflect on the life of the person we have lost, the special ones even more.

The truth is I never knew David Bowie the man, what touched me all those years was the music, the wonderful, magical music. It was the characters and personas, the many different faces. I cried a lot when he died, but I got through it. I found a new beginning, an absolute beginning. Now I celebrate everything I love about Bowie, all that he has given me. When most of us die we will crumble to star-dust, only the love will remain. People like Bowie leave so much more. They touch our soul, help us find who we are. That is why the artists, the poets, the musicians are the special ones. Everyone dies, but heroes live forever.

Are you making any resolutions for 2017?
I love this time of year not just for the festivities, but because I get to write lots of lists. I’m a big fan of making lists, I even write lists about what to make lists about. I also like reflecting, embracing change, and moving forward. My mantra is the Dylan line ‘He not busy being born is busy dying.’ New year is a perfect opportunity to do this and I try to make the most of it every year. So in terms of my resolutions for 2017, my current list is:

  1. Publish another novel
  2. Finish the follow-up to ‘Becoming.’
  3. Win the Brass Band Area Championship and qualify for the National Finals again
  4. Secure a top five finish in the Brass Band National Finals
  5. Go to at least 20 gigs
  6. Run more
  7. Worry less

The list will change, but that’s a good thing.

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What are you hoping for from 2017?
Less death, more life. More positivity and engagement. 2016 has been a year of anger and dismay, but we can get through all this if we try. The world seems to be shifting on the anger of vocal minorities. Meanwhile, there is a growing, silent majority, the passive, disillusioned, and the young. I hope to see more people engage and make the world they want to live in. Especially young people, the future is theirs.

Review of 2016: Helen Anderson

In 2015, I had the honour of copy-editing Helen Anderson’s memoir, Piece by Piece. That book has gone on to receive fantastic reviews as well as providing support to many other people who are going through difficult times. 

It is a real joy to have Helen reviewing her 2016. Many thanks for being involved, Helen.

Vic x

Helen Anderson

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Much of the year been taken up with letting people know about my memoir about losing my beautiful daughter Georgina to cancer, three years ago. Piece by Piece: Remembering Georgina: A Mother’s Memoir is still available as a paperback or e-book and has over 60 amazing 5 Star Amazon reviews.

When the book was published at the end of 2015, I had no idea if it would sell 10 or 100 copies, but I am thrilled to have been able to donate £1,000 of profits, so far, from the sale of the book to Make-A-Wish UK. I have had wonderful feedback from readers, and I have enjoyed reading at events and talking on radio shows about Georgina and my memoir. Emotionally, I have been sustained by all the support I have received with this venture, and I hope that my writing is also helping others experiencing child loss or bereavement, generally. 

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I have been invited to some amazing fundraising events in Georgina’s memory, and these are always a bittersweet mixture of happiness that she is still so loved, and sadness that’s she’s not here with us.

My writer’s notebook has been well-travelled. We have been lucky enough to enjoy some soul-nourishing holidays to Tenerife, Languedoc and Lindisfarne, as well as managing to get our beloved VW camper Daisy Blue back onto the road, for a few local forays.

At the beginning of 2016, I put out feelers to see if any local writers would be interested in meeting up. The response was very positive, so Saltburn Writers Group has been meeting once a month since March. It is such a friendly, vibrant group – I hope that it will continue to go from strength to strength.

Favourite book in 2016?
I have been reading quite voraciously, recently. I have just finished reading Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, which is so dark that I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. My (as yet unpublished) novel Gloriosa Superba also has a deeply disturbed central protagonist, so it was a relief to see I’m not the only one who creates twisted characters.

I also love Shelley Day’s The Confession of Stella Moon, Kit de Waal’s My Name Is Leon and Louise Beech’s How To Be Brave. All these books are thought-provoking, populated by well-observed characters, and beautifully written.

Favourite film in 2016?
I don’t think I’ve been to the cinema at all this year. I’m thinking “That can’t be right!!” but it seems it is. Perhaps that should be my resolution for 2017 – to get out more. I’ve enjoyed some cracking TV dramas, such as The Missing, The Fall, Paranoid and Dark Angel (as well as my guilty secrets like Home and Away) so I’m obviously more of a sit-on-my-own-sofa-and-gawp-at-my-own-screen kinda gal.

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Favourite song of the year?
I like to listen to golden oldies – 80s, 90s, Noughties –  when I write, and I love to listen to my daughter Georgina’s own song Two Thirds of a Piece.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
In October 2016, it would have been Georgina’s 18th birthday. That was a very hard day to get through, as was the third anniversary of her death in November 2016. However, we have survived so far, thanks to the love of friends – old and new – and family.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I should resolve to be more disciplined with my writing, but I don’t really ‘do’ resolutions, because they just make me feel rebellious! I’ll aim to keep on keeping on, I suppose (not a very specific goal, I know).

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Writing-wise, my first chapbook of poetry Way Out is due to be published by The Black Light Engine Room Press early in 2017, so I am excited by that.

I would also love to secure representation for Gloriosa Superba – I have had a few near-misses, and I need to steel myself to send it out again. I plan to finish the final draft of my new novel, All Hushed, and to start the process of finding an agent who loves the story and characters as much as I do.

Personally, I just want my family to stay as healthy and happy as possible. Georgina wanted us to be happy and make the most of our lives, even in her absence, and I am going to try to seize opportunities and enjoy the little things (and some medium-sized and big things, if I’m lucky!)

Whitley Bay Film Festival continues.

So, I’ve been Whitley Bay Film Festival’s official blogger for a week and I am having a great time.

So far, I’ve seen nine classic films, been to a film-themed busker’s night, met some great independent filmmakers and seen lots of indie movies.

To read my reviews so far, check out http://whitleybayfilmfestival.co.uk/2012/

The website will feature regular blog posts and pics from me so keep checking for updates.

Vic x