Author Archives: Candice Nolan

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways

Candice: Buying some books for my holiday the other month I picked up this. The premise sounded interesting, and a bit different from my usual murder mystery or woman’s romance novel.

There are two strands to the book, which is part of what interested me about the story. The first is a love story, the second a history of Egypt. I’ve always been interested in Egyptology, years ago I was supposed to go to Egypt but couldn’t because a volcanic ash cloud stopped all the flights. I’ve haven’t got there since due to one thing or another but I’d still like to go and see the pyramids one day.

The story follows American Dawn, who was an Egyptologist, highly rated at her University and with future plans to discover new tombs and more history. Her nemesis, is Wyatt, British Aristo, who is fighting to be top dog with her Professor both on the cause and on the dig. While in Egypt the two of them discover that their animosity also breeds passion and they have a tumultuous love hate relationship.

Out of the blue while they are away Dawn receives a call to say her Mother has passed away, leaving her in charge of her much younger brother. She has to leave Egypt and Wyatt and take up a new life at home, looking after her brother and giving up her PhD.

Fifteen years on she is married and a daughter but she just feels like something is missing. She meets a new client though her work as a death doula, someone who helps those terminally ill, who wants to pass a message to her lost love from many years ago. This, plus the suspicion that Dawn has that her husband has been looking elsewhere for attention makes her rethink her old life, and her old love.

On a whim she catches a plane to Egypt and reconnects with Wyatt. Their love has not died and they realise, though all this time has passed they are meant to be together. However, on the flight home the plane crashes and Dawn has to tell her husband and daughter about him, rather sooner than she planned.

The story twists and turns between past and present, Dawn’s earlier interactions with Wyatt and her present day confusion over her marriage and issues with her daughter. Its interspersed with lots of historic Egypt references which add an extra layer to the love story.

Its about following and not giving up on your dreams, even when a long time has passed. I think her job helps to carry the story as it shapes the idea that we could all die tomorrow, and therefore life is to be lived. I really enjoyed it, it stretched my brain a bit more than the usual read.

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Time for a proper holiday read

Candice: I’ve just come back from a great weeks holiday in the sun. It was great for lots of reasons one of the main ones being it was a proper break for the first time in a long time. I got on an airplane, something that felt very alien compared to two years ago, where it was a twice a year event. I really had to remind myself what to pack and what I needed to remember for the airport, apart from the additional Covid stuff. Thankfully I remembered the clear bag for liquids in your carry on luggage at the last minute!

Arriving in the Canaries was heaven. It wasn’t a ground breaking holiday, I didn’t go and see anything from the seven wonders of the world, I didn’t really do anything but work out one of the many ways to get to the breakfast area, which pool to lie by (there were seven) and what entertainment we were going to watch in the evening. There was a regular visit to the mini disco!

But what it did provide was a chance to wind down, and also read. Due to baggage space I only packed two physical books, but quickly realised that wasn’t going to be enough. Pre-child I would have taken four books on a weeks holiday, but I’ve got into taking less as I don’t usually get so much sunlounger time. Or I would have dived into the hotel library, but with Covid this concept has disappeared.

The first book I read was a Sophie Kinsella – ‘Love Your Life’. She is well known for writing the ‘Shopaholic’ series, which I have to say I am not a big fan of. The main character is a bit too wet. But, as we all are, she has moved on a bit, though her females are still a bit too weak for my liking. The story however was a simple premise that I rattled through pool side and when chilling in my room. A quick synopsis of the story is two characters meet on a writing retreat where they are asked to stay anonymous. They fall in love. When they get home they are not the people they thought they were. But love wins out. Along the way there are some funny scenarios but also some comments on relationships, communication and compromise which struck as chord,

Having finished book 1 I got concerned. It was only three days into the holiday. Before we’d left I’d signed up to Kindle Unlimited so I had a moment of inspiration and downloaded some books on to my phone. But I also wound down more, and just got into the habit of people watching and relaxing, so less reading needed. By the time I came back I’d half read two other books (one Kindle one paper as you can’t read a phone screen in the sun) both of which I am finishing off now.

It was lovely to had some time for back to back reading, something I don’t get to do so much at home. Though I have to say since I’ve been home, with the dark nights now starting I have been picking up a book when I finish work rather than turning on the TV for a post work wind down, and it feels good.

Holding on to that holiday vibe as long as I can, and planning to book the next one asap!

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The name’s Bond…. Candice Bond

Candice: So my turn for a review of the new Bond film. I’ve also been a fan of Bond over the years, I was more of a Roger Moore than Sean Connery (influenced by my Mom). I’ve loved the sophistication of the films; the settings, the cars, the clothing. Plus the gadgets, everyone loves a gadget.

Unlike Phil I’m not a Bond buff though, I know my theme tunes and some of the cars but not down to the infinite detail. I just like a good film, with some action, some romance and a nice man at the centre for me to look at. Daniel Craig has certainly helped that over the years…. yum.

I was really looking forward to this film for lots of reasons, Mr Craig was one (Phil found that out when I sighed with pleasure when he came on screen), the escapism was the other. After a year and a half of rubbish in Covid and personal life this was a chance to disappear for 2 3/4 hours into another world. And disappear I did. I loved all the flash, the fun, the intrigue. But with a twist for 2021, the women were stronger, Bond had a weakness (or three), the central premise wasn’t all about him saving the girl (or in this case it was a little girl who just reminded me of my daughter). There were plot holes you could drive a truck (or Land Rover Discovery) through, but who cares, it was fun.

One of my favourite scenes was in Cuba where he and a very able female agent took down a room of Spectre agents. It was old school Bond with new school Bond. Confusing plot and complicated weapon to do a simple job – tick. Multiple Extras in amazing costumes – check. Bond and side kick looking vey dapper whilst taking the room apart – check . (Even though I know about tit tape I am still wondering how she kept that dress on!). Complicated scenes where it is unlikely they will come out alive…but they do – check. All the fun that you want from a film, that still has its tongue slightly in its cheek, though much less that the Roger Moore days.

But this film did have more, it gave Bond a soul. He was more than just a ‘shag beast’ working his way round women between killing off baddies. And it gave him age, at the start he wasn’t the prime candidate, his young female replacement was.

I’m not sure where they will go next (please don’t make him female, that will just ruin it) but I do hope they do keep some of the original elements that make Bond Bond, but add in that extra spice of where the world is now. And even if I get a numb bum again, I’d go and see it just for the escapism.

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Missing deadlines!

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Candice: I have become a library convert in the last six month, as you know. However, I keep having a problem that I forget when my books need to be back!

I’m not sure whether its the lack of structure with the ongoing working from home, or the upheaval that has been going on in my my life but yet again I got a message the other day saying we’ve frozen your account!

This is unusual for me as I am a fast reader but this time I had only managed one and a half books in the three weeks. I suppose I did have the distraction of reading another book which wasn’t from the library, plus a long weekend camping where I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have hoped.

Anyway all renewed now until next time, and a note put in my phone to tell me when they need to go back (and I’ve just finished the second book this morning).

Is anyone else still finding this whole Covid weirdness is messing with their usual organisational skills? I am now back in the office one or two days a week but I haven’t quite got that down into a rhythm. It was really nice to be in the office yesterday but its still not ‘normal’ yet by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve got another winter to get through and who knows what fun that will bring.

Anyway, we’ve got this far, something I’m sure none of us thought we’d be able to do a year and a half ago. There are mutterings of Christmas party at work, something I really excited about. Would be great if that comes off. This weekend felt almost normal as I went to an outdoor pop concert and had a boogie. Loved that.

But the biggest missed deadline I have is my own – finishing the writing I started in July. I am determined to pull my finger out and get that big finish done. I have time this weekend so ‘focus Nolan’ and get your finger out on the writing. I know I feel better if I do.

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Desperately Seeking Summer

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Candice: I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Desperately Seeking Summer’. I haven’t finished it yet so the review will come in another blog but I have to say it encapsulates the summer we have had in the UK this year. I’m still waiting for it to come.

I am a sunshine loving girl. Yes I know it can do bad things to your skin if you are in it too much but I wear my factor 30. However, it can also do lots of good things, increase your Vitamin D levels but generally make you feel happy. I’m never happier when I am out in the sunshine, shorts and tshirt on, doing the garden or going for a walk. My particular favourite is eating outside, particularly for dinner. I love to go on holiday and have a meal outside, preferably over looking the sea, not having to wear a jacket or cardi over my outfit. If there is shellfish on the menu, even better.

But no, this year has been pretty awful. We had one week of scorching heat in July and then its been very up and down. I got my shorts out all week in Devon, but with a fleece on. In that case I was on holiday and determined to show I was by getting my legs out (but not the upper body, still too cold).

For most of August I have been wondering where the sun has gone as we have had wall to wall cloud. A few weeks ago someone at my gym class said there was going to be a heat wave in early September and I went ‘yeah’ but now they are saying rain for most of the month.

Of course without Covid I would have already had one foreign holiday and have another in the pipeline but now things are all up in the air. I may have to dream and just put the heating on instead. I wouldn’t mind, its just the sun I miss as much as the heat.

This week adds an extra factor in the fact my friend and I optimistically planned a camping trip before the kids go back to school. I haven’t been in eight years, so I have all the kit but have forgotten how much you need and all the palava attached. Its all laid out in my garage as we speak.

So fingers crossed for a sudden heatwave end of this week. If nothing else I have my head torch and I’ll be doing some night time reading, mainly finishing of this book where I can disappear into a world of hot summers on a Greek island even if I can’t be there.

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Jay Blades – Making It

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Candice: For those of you who don’t know, Jay Blades is the guy with the flat cap who is the main presenter on the BBC show ‘The Repair Shop’. Affable and friendly he coordinates between the people who want their items fixed and the makers.

I do like the odd autobiography but don’t read that many, I’m more into escapism these days but Phil sent me this book to read a few weeks ago. He had really liked it and raved about it so I thought I’d give it a go.

Jay has a very varied life, growing up on a rough estate in London with a revolving door of men playing Dad in his life when his biological father leaves the scene early. He also struggles with racism, and undiagnosed dyslexia, leading him to talk with his fists rather than his mouth for many years. This escalates to the point he has to leave the area. Unfortunately for the next few years his life follows a similar pattern, he settles into area but things start to go a bit awry and then he has to leave because he falls out with the local gang. He will admit that he brings a lot of this on himself as he does have an eye for the ladies and ends up getting on the wrong side of people due to messing women about.

Along the way he does start to find he has a knack for helping troubled people and starts initially volunteering and then working for a homeless charity. Again his mouth gets in the way when the management changes and he tells them what he thinks of their new plan, and has to leave.

Finally after many years and nearly 40 he finds the woman he gels with and they set up their own charity supporting troubled children through remaking old furniture. And this is where the ‘Repair Shop’ Jay appears. He says he gets a lot of comments on social media about the fact he doesn’t make anything, but that is where his true rehabilitation started, in revitalising old furniture. But a chance encounter gives him the opportunity to try presenting and he is a natural in front of the screen, and suddenly a new career beckons.

Present day, and we all know him as the ‘Father’ figure in the show, the one to give someone a hug when tears appear. To be honest, reading this book I have mixed feelings about him as a person. Obviously he has worked hard and fought his way up from a tough background. And he has done a lot of good for those who have struggled like him. But along the way he has left two children and multiple partners to pursue what he wants. My definite impression of him from the book was Jay comes first.

An interesting read, especially if you have no experience of that kind of upbringing.

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I can see the sea!

View from Puffin Cottage, Bucks Mills, Bideford

Candice: I’ve always said my spiritual home is by the sea. I feel the pull of the coast if I don’t visit it for a long period of time. The sea calms me and I can spend hours just looking out over the horizon. I think I find that a lot around water as even lying by a pool on holiday I find calming.

There has been a lot of change and upheaval in my life over the last couple of months. I have gone from a family of three to two. It has taken me along time to get my head round this idea and this holiday has really helped me see the wood for the trees.

It also hasn’t helped my writing brain as I just haven’t been able to think clearly. A week at the coast and for the first time in ages inspiration struck. Phil and I had had a brain storm a week or so before around what was missing from Book 3 and I had taken it upon myself to write the ending. We knew approximately where it needed to go, but just hadn’t fleshed out that big finish. In fact the first step of our meeting the other week was to realise that we needed a big finish.

So I managed to squeeze in two writing sessions and get off 2000 words. I would have done more but an exuberant seven year old needed my attention, but to be honest most nights I was shattered, all that fresh air and boogie boarding tired me out. She and I had a ball, we did loads of things I wouldn’t have done if we’d flown abroad on holiday, a UK holiday is just different. One of those things was sheltering under a non-waterproof beach tent for 20 mins while it threw it down, but hey that’s just UK holidays! And the other main one was swimming in the sea, something I haven’t done in the UK for years, buying a wet suit really helped. I not sure who enjoyed the boogie boarding more, me or her!!

Anyway, I have broken the back of the big finish. I now need to knuckle down and write the next bit. I remember now why we have only got to about 60k words. The finish can take up 10k all on its own. In 2000 I’ve only opened the door to where we are going, and at the moment I’m not even sure where that is, that is the joy of writing, I just know where it needs to end up.

Happy holidays and writing!

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Summer on a Sunny Island – Sue Moorcroft

Summer on a Sunny Island: The uplifting new summer read from the Sunday Times bestseller, guaranteed to make you smile! by [Sue Moorcroft]

Candice: I have to admit I have been rubbish at writing blog posts recently. I have a lot on my mind and it means I get to the end of Wednesday and go – oh bum I’ve forgotten to write my blog post! Phil is very good at not reminding me(telling me off) about it.

But in the middle of all of this I have been reading. Its a great escape from anything that is going on around me.

As part of my trips to the Library I have been exploring other books that I might not have found in the supermarket, and this was one in the ‘quick reads’. Summer on a Sunny Island caught my eye as it was all about holidays – something that I am missing at the moment.

The premise is around Rosa, who splits from her long term boyfriend and decamps to Malta for the summer. She is lucky enough that her mom, a professional chef, grew up there and they can spend the summer crafting her new cookery book while Rosa decides what to do next.

Living upstairs from Rosa and her Mom is Zach, hard working but with a background of getting in trouble, leaving him estranged from his family, particularly his disapproving dad.

With a number of stories crossing over within the book its runs along nicely.

Zach takes a local boy who is getting into trouble under his wing, causing drama.

Dory, Rosa’s mom falls in love, and this causes issues with her ex-husband.

Rosa’s ex-boyfriend causes Rosa all kind of turmoil as his messes her about over their split. This impacts on her trying to decide what she really wants to do with her life.

Zach’s family come back together, and drama ensues with his sisters and his parents.

But the underlying story is that of Zach and Rosa. Its the classic ‘will they wont they’ as they go on not dates, fall out, get confused messages but eventually fall in love. But its nicely done. All the other story lines make for an interesting read and the background of sunny Malta add to the charm.

I enjoyed the thoughts of relaxing a sunlounger or swimming in the sea, even though it will be awhile until I get to do that. So you want a break from home working this is a perfect light read.

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Rediscovering the Library

Candice: Over the last few years I’ve got out of the habit of going to the local library. It’s been too easy to pick up a book from the supermarket or the charity shop, or get one from Phil. However, during lockdown, it has been harder and harder to get hold of physical books so I have had to look at other options.

At one point I tried to set up a share group with the neighbours, but we either didn’t like each others type of book, or they read on a kindle so couldn’t share.

Phil and I have posted books back and forth, but that has still be dependent on what I can get hold of, and I refuse to buy too much from Amazon as I like to support the local stores instead.

But then there was a lightbulb moment in the family the other week. Why not use the Library? It’s particularly relevant as my daughter is reading more and more, and finding the right books for her is also a challenge.

She loved her first trip there, and was very proud of having her new library card. The slight problem is her having picked about seven books up, and only managing to read one in the three weeks she has them, but I am not knocking that excitement!

However, it has also helped me to discover the extensive range at Solihull Library. In fact, I got more lost in the options than she did; quick reads, Richard and Judy reads, murder mystery, chick lit, something completely different. I’m reading something at the moment I would not have picked up in a shop.

The downside is I can’t share them with Phil, but I can at least recommend and he can go and find them in his own library.

There are lots of other things happening at the Library too, there were some children doing craft activities last time we went in so I need to find out how to sign up to them, plus reading groups and summer clubs.

Lockdown has changed a lot of things but also brought other things to the fore that we’d forgotten about – using the local park is one and now using the Library is another. Don’t forget to use yours – its a great, free service and will open you up to lots more things than books.

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A Book Club with a difference

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Candice: As part of the the many initiatives out there to bring us all together while we are apart my work set up a book club. Being of the writing mind I joined immediately, and then gave a plug for the two Nolan Parker books.

Disappointingly neither were on the short list for the first two books we read as a group (I’m still working on that), however we picked ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. My sister had already read this and told me it was a good one so I was looking forward to it. And the result, I loved it! It nipped along lightly with twist and turns, and I loved the fact the main characters were all people in an old people’s home, proving that age doesn’t impact on your mind (just your body in a lot of cases).

Book put aside it was time for the first meet of the Book Club. The organiser had sent round some very deep discussion questions and I thought, ‘oh no, this is going to be too highbrow for me’ . But I logged in late to the meeting, due to going to another, and it was all ladies and they were nattering about something completely different!

The call turned into a ‘life, the universe and everything’ discussion. We covered the book, old age, which character we’d want to be, then other books we had read, then work, working from home, and even misogyny and the menopause! It was great because it was like being on a girls night out in the pub, with a book as the starter for the conversation but actually just a really good natter. It almost felt normal, apart from the fact they were on screen on sat around me.

I’m not sure what we are reading next but I’m more looking forward to the chat than the book.

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