Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Beachside Guest House

Phil: Vanessa Greene books get vintage teacups on the cover. As far as her publisher is concerned, that’s the rule.

Odd, because this book concerns three friends who drop out of their lives and set up a guest house on the Greek Island of Paros.

No teacups there.

I can’t help feeling Ms Greene is being let down here. The cover says “snuggly heartwarming and safe story”. Inside, there is plenty of plot that is safe enough for early evening Sunday television, there is also a bit of bite.

Disillusioned charity worker Rosa finds financial irregularities with her bosses daughter. Bee is about to get married to her childhood sweetheart. They drop everything, including Stuart, Bee’s fiance who I think gets a rough deal, and head to the location of their most important holiday together.

Rosa buys the old windmill guest house they remember staying in, they restore it and return the place to being a successful business.  There’s some heart-searching along the way, an old boyfriend returns and departs. New love is found. So far, so chick-lit. Nothing to disturb the sunlounger there.

Bite arrives with Iona, trapped in a psychologically abusive relationship. Years ago, she lost contact with her friends, but they didn’t forget her and use the move to reestablish contact. The chapters written from Iona’s point of view are genuinely chilling as we see how her boyfriend is controlling her. By the third chapter, you are past the point of willing her to leave, you want him smashed in the face with a heavy or sharp object.

The three women’s stories are journeys – each one grows and changes thanks to their involvement in the project. It is heartwarming, and I suppose you know from the start that everything is going to be all right in the end, but then that’s what we want from a book like this. There is a hint of a sequel right at the end, perhaps the author liked the characters so much she wasn’t ready to let them go?

The cover still intrigues me though. Is “the brand” more important than the contents?

 

 

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The Hideaway

Phil: In the book tsunami from my writing friend is a new title – The Hideaway by Sheila O’Flanagan.

I can guess why she picked it. The front shows a sunny villa and the back cover talks about “the enchanting Villa Naranja in Spain”. This is sun-lounger reading in every respect. Opening it in winter is going to make you want to jump on a ‘plane for a bit of sunshine.

The story revolves around Juno Ryan, an Irish radiologist who discovers that her boyfriend is married. Worse, she finds out he’s married when he’s killed in an earthquake. Along with his wife and child.

For obvious reasons, this upsets her and she ends up taking up the offer of a few months unpaid holiday at a villa in Spain.

There is a pool, complete with Greek God style poll cleaners. Regular chick-lit readers won’t be surprised what happens there. It is not the end of the story though.

In fact, the book splits reasonably nicely into three parts and getting it on with the pool boy is in the early stages. After that, things progress and you see Juno start to recover and grow as a person. She conquers some of the demons that hold her back thanks to her family as well as those caused by her relationship with a married man who lied to her.

The story is deeper and far more involved than most sunlounger fiction. It’s light enough to be pleasant, especially the running cat story arc, but involving enough that you are pleased you are reading it. The ending isn’t quite what you’d expect from the first half of the book.

Summing up, the book is better than the cover would suggest. You can enjoy this while covered in suntan lotion, but it’s just as good while supping a warming cup of tea in the rain.

 

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Time hurdles

2013 Nevada NIAA HS Track & Field / Reed Sparks Rotary Invitational / South Tahoe - Brandon Cramer - 300m Hurdles WinnerPhil: My life is full of “time hurdles”.

Let me explain. I look at my calendar when I’m busy and think “It’s OK. After such-and-such date/event, things will settle down”.

Each date or event is a “time hurdle”. Once I jump over it, things will be different. Hopefully better.

Time hurdles are fixed points on the calendar. Sometimes I can’t see beyond them. Not literally you understand, I’ll still book other things in and in my rational mind, I know that there will be days after the hurdle, it’s just that everything after that date has an air of unreality about it. I know they exist, but in a slightly etherial way as though I know, but don’t believe.

There are especially big-time hurdles.  Holidays, hospital appointments, big/serious work meetings, new jobs, weddings etc. I imagine those to look like the massive walls found in some showjumping events. Beyond these, the view is distinctly misty.

Most of the time though, the hurdles are smaller. I’ve just taken part in a show that required quite a bit of preparation. Now it’s over, the next hurdle is some filming work I need to get things ready for.

After this, I believe the rest of the month should be plain sailing.

But will it? As the hurdle gets closer, I find it easier to concentrate. My focus becomes laser-like. I imagine a horse feels the same heading towards a jump. I actually achieve more.

The plain sailing bit is where you need to keep a foot on the accelerator (yes I know I’m mixing metaphors, get over it) and get stuff done while the next hurdle is in the distance. I look forward to this coasting phase but know there are probably things I should be delivering. Things the approaching hurdle has permitted me to ignore for a while.

Does anyone else look at the calendar and feel like this?

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Why can’t writing be fun?

Phil: For the last few weeks, the Nolan has enjoyed a break from the daily grind which has seen us meeting up on a weekly basis for chatting and in theory, writing.

Truth is, there has been a lot more talking than typing. We’ve done a reasonable amount of planning but progress on Book 3 has been limited.

Both of us have had things other than writing on our minds and since we are mates, we talk about them. Afterwards, we both feel better, not just through the effects of tea and cake either!

I suppose we should feel guilty about this, and we do. But not much.

Writing is great. We’re really proud of the books produced so far, and looking forward to seeing how the next ones work out. But it’s not everything to either of us. We have lives as well.

Does this make us bad?

Some authors take great pride in hitting daily word targets. Writing has, we are told, got to be a painful process. Only by travelling through the fire, can you forge a book worthy of the name.

Well, sorry, but no.

You can’t write light chick-lit fiction if your day is spent agonising over every word. Our style is humorous and if you analyse every single line to death then you’ll suck all the fun out of it. Worse, you’ll create something so convoluted that any reader will need another book just to explain the one they are reading. We don’t want anyone opening ours to have to suffer. I know that “proper” literature is all about this, but we’ll steer clear of that thank you very much. Editing and polishing is one thing, agonising is another and enduring it doesn’t make you a better person.

Taking time to step back and look at what we are doing, we’ve worked out that for us, the journey is part of the fun. Yes, we’d love people to read an enjoy what we produce, but why shouldn’t it simply be a pleasurable activity?

Progress would be quicker if we knuckled down and got on with things, but maybe this isn’t everything. Perhaps the journey should be as pleasurable as the destination.

As it is, the weekly meet-ups are over. Candice has a posh new job and my work is going through one of its periodic explosions of demand. For the minute, tea, cake and finishing the book will have to be a dream, but, as Captain Sensible once said, “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you going to have a dream come true?”

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