Author Archives: Candice Nolan

Blue Monday?

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Candice: When I hear that expression I have to say I think more of the New Order song (which I hate) than the term that is banded around for the third Monday in January.

Monday, and this week, is supposed to be the most depressing point of the year.  Christmas is over, the days are still short and dark, and we don’t have anything to look forward to until the next big holiday which could be months away.

This Monday has turned into even more of a confusing one for me, my daughter seems to have decided it’s her blue Monday as she doesn’t want to go to school. At the age of six, they are already testing children at school, and she is in the middle of her first round of maths and reading checks.  I think it’s far too early, but that’s the way the world works.

What I don’t want this to do it take away from her enjoyment of school and learning, including reading.  One of the things that lifts me in the world of short, dark days is a good book or film, something to drift off in to so I don’t have the think about all the rubbish going on around me.

To me, you have to spin the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ on its head and find positive things to do to make this time of year better.  As much as I am sure my other half would prefer not to have a birthday at the end of Jan, its something I use to keep us going as I like to plan a day out activity so we all have something look forward to.   Birthday or not it’s good to have things in the diary so that you can go – ‘today was rubbish but I’ve got that trip to the theatre, cinema, day out in London’ – whatever it is that floats your boat, in the calendar.

Having a small person does help too as she always wants to find out new stuff, and I like taking her to new things too.  We were watching the ice dancing show last night and she said she’d like to have a go so we are going to plan a trip to the ice rink in a few weeks.  She’s never been so it will be an experience and there will definitely be falls, but it’s all new and exciting in her eyes.

My other ‘Blue Monday’ is the eternal battle with writing and time to do it.  Phil and I had a chat in a very busy Costa last week about plot lines, and then I didn’t manage to get to the edits off the back of that.  However, after beating myself up for most of the weekend about it, I’ve got my planning diary out and worked out when I might be able to look at it.  That makes me feel better.  It might not be until next weekend but now I feel more comfortable because at least I know when I will do, rather than constantly going when can I write.

If you are feeling blue, go and book in something that you will enjoy – a massage, drink with friends.  You might not be feeling motivated but once you do something you’ll find that the need to hibernate lessens and you’ll want to do more.  Now to sort out the six-year-old’s logic about school…..

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Clever Marketing

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This Christmas has been a whirlwind of new sparkly, pink things. Not for me, but for the little girl in the household, who actually isn’t that little any more.

She is one of those people with a birthday very close to Christmas so we go through a very fast run of present buying from one event to another. She loves the excitement of having so many things together, but I find it hard 1) to be inspired so close together, 2) wondering how she will feel when she is older when she’ll want the two things further apart, as I have to say to her you can’t have anything else you’ve had your quota for the year.

This is partly driven by me being a June person. I’m used to having a good gap between the two so I have to keep reminding myself she doesn’t know any different. And also it’s not totally my fault as she was early!

Anyway, this year has been all about LOL Surprise dolls. For those of you have not experienced them, they are the “Cabbage patch doll” of this year, but without the fighting at the till. Why no fighting? Because you can get everything with a LOL on! Clothes, pants, drawing kits, hair bands, pens, games alongside the dolls themselves.

What is a LOL?

They stand about 6cms high and look like a combination of Betty Boop and a Manga comic. All big eyes and oversized head. They don’t do a lot but the fun comes from the opening. The creators have come up with a clever way to make you a) buy lots of them and b) keep you interested. They come wrapped up in a ball or other plastic container and you have to unwrap the layers, like pass the parcel. You don’t know what doll you are going to get inside and everything that comes with her is wrapped up in little packages. Each item, shoes, clothes, bag, is separately wrapped. It’s very clever as it builds the excitement not knowing what is in there and then constructing the little doll.

I have to say I get just as excited as her in the process, wondering what we are going to get, and I don’t even know what most of them are called though she seems to.

There are 100’s of dolls to collect, they keep bringing out new versions and types – glitter series, winter disco, OMG. So you want to keep adding to your collection. My daughter has about 12 of them, this is a small number compared to some of the children you see and hear, and at £10 plus a go that’s a lot of money.

As my sister in law said the other day, “I wish I’d come up with the idea”. They have taken the world by storm, seemingly by using YouTube as their platform for delivery. I’ve never seen an advert anywhere for them but my daughter found them on YouTube by watching the ‘unboxing’ videos. This has become a big thing, vloggers opening things they are sent to promote. Because of the format of the LOL they are perfect for this, and they have kids and adults drowning in excitement ready to open their next surprise. I know some kids have become rich with ‘unboxing’ and their parents posting the videos.

I have to say I think the dolls are harmless fun, as long as you don’t get pulled into buying them all. It’s not like sticker books where you bought a pack of stickers for a few pence and then swapped duplicates with your friends, you could spend thousands to get a full set with these. In that case, it’s all about control from the parents. But I do think that the world of marketing has changed so dramatically and this is a very clever use of the new media out there. I’d just like to know how to transfer that into bookselling.

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Just one sleep…

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Huffkins – Yum

Candice: That’s what someone said to me this morning.  The excitement is brewing in our house, though it’s all about the details:

  • There is no 25 chocolate in her calendar so will she get a bigger one from the chocolate tin tomorrow?
  • Has Father Christmas remembered her OMG LOL (well no he hasn’t as that was a last-minute entry)
  • Can we clear some space for her new toys (me)- reluctance to that one

I’ve kept things simple, there are no presents under our tree so she has no idea what is coming. I’m hoping this will allay a 4am wake up!  Too many exciting things under the tree might cause problems.

This year has been very twisty and turny – or ‘Bumpy’ as the Queen has described her year in her annual speech.  Jobs have come and gone for my family, leaving us wondering exactly what next year will look like.  For now, I’m enjoying my new role and hopefully the same can soon be said for the other half.  Phil’s had a few bumps too, but not on his train tracks.

Normally I write a blog about Christmas Parties this time of year but mine has been very subdued.  Yes, I had a nice night out, good food, a few glasses of Sauvignon, and some good chat but it was all over very early.  Being a project person in a big company, employed people had their own parties to go too so there were too many decisions about which party to go to.  By the sound of lots of friends, this is getting more and more unusual as companies clamp down on spending on the nice stuff like Xmas parties, which I think is a real shame.

Phil and I had a nice meal the other day and exchanged presents.  We are both of the school that presents take precedence and like the excitement of buying something that we think someone will like.  I’m almost as excited as Erin about opening mine tomorrow!

Hope that all our readers have a great Christmas and look forward to some good reading and writing experiences in the new year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS (in a Noddy Holder stylie)

 

 

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

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Candice : I’ve just come back from a lovely week sunning myself in Gran Canaria.  The holiday hit all the usual Nolan criteria – sun, tick (though it took a day or so to appear), pool tick, mini disco, tick and happy child, tick.

We’ve been to Gran Canaria before when she was a bit younger, and I’ve also been when I was hitting the club 18-30 world.  Its a great for guaranteed sun but, to be the honest, its a bit characterless.  Being a volcanic island, they have to import sand from the Sahara to make the beaches yellow not black and its so small you can get from one side to the other in about an hour.  The other half and I discussed holiday options for our next trip and decided we wanted more character – but that’s another post for another time.

However, the sun and pool options meant that I did have time to crack open the odd book and get on with some reading.  I’d struggled to have time to pop somewhere to get a book before this hols so had ordered some of Amazon.  Its harder to pick that way because you do need to have an idea of what you want to read or an author in mind.  I picked Jessie as I’d read ‘The Miniaturist‘ the other year and had really enjoyed it.  It was quirky and different, not my usual read but I was hooked all the way through the twists and turns of the strange story.

‘The Muse’ was similar.  A strange premise of a woman who comes across a painting which has a complicated history.  Set in the 30s and 60s the story twists between the discovery of the painting and the actual painting of it.  But its more than that as it touches on what it is like to be a person of colour in the UK when that is frowned upon, the impact of war on a country and how deceit leads people to do strange things.

In brief, Odelle comes to the UK from Trinidad, degree educated she struggles to find a job until she is taken under the wing of Marjorie, second in command at prestigious art gallery.  Odelle meets Lawrie, who’s once rich family are now struggling after the death of his mother, he has been only left a painting in her will.

The painting weaves a tale of a Foreign diplomat and Art Seller in war besieged Spain, where his wife and daughter are trying to fit in.  His wife struggles with depression, his daughter a gifted artist who is ignored by her father.

The daughter falls for one of the servants who is also an artist and through a twist of fate (orchestrated by the artist’s sister) her painting is represented as his to her father.  Fame and fortune follow for the man, but he doesn’t want to take the glory of his girlfriend’s work.

War breaks, and the family and artist are separated and some end up back in the UK, with the final painting in their possession.

When Lawrie shows the painting to the gallery it causes uproar, an undiscovered work by this celebrated artist.  But all is not as it seems and Majorie becomes cagey, Odelle thinks she is hiding something about the painting.

The story twists and turns nicely, with an added plot twist I thought I’d worked out but wasn’t quite what I expected.  The book is well written, and unlike other stories where it moves from different story lines I didn’t struggle to keep up with who is who.

Being able to read it over a few days definitely helped but one to recommend.

 

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The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

The Guilty Party: Dive into a dark, gripping and shocking psychological thriller from bestselling author Mel McGrath by [McGrath, Mel]

Candice : I bought a collection of books from Sainsburys before jetting off to a lovely holiday to Majorca earlier in the summer.

As it always the way, and what happens when you buy books from a supermarket, the selection was limited to chic lit or crime drama.  I picked this one up because it looked a little different.

The premise is built around four friends who meet at university and then stay connected over the next ten years. Their lives change – one gets married and has a child, one comes out as gay, one becomes wildly successful as a business man, and one gets left behind.  But they have something that ties them all together, they are all serially unfaithful to their partners and keep a record of their relationships by photographing their conquests naked and posting pictures on a shared ‘black book’.  Their appetite for competition and  being sexual predators drives them to stay in touch even though, by the time we enter their lives, they don’t seem to really like or trust each other.

The story is held together with a central premise; they have all been to a festival and on their way home a fight breaks out, in the ensuing melee they see a girl being raped.  The next day she turns up dead, drowned in the Thames.

Meeting a month later one of the party is unsure that the story she has been spun by her friends about the rape is the truth, she wants to tell the police what she has seen but they are reluctant to spill the beans. Why, she is doesn’t know but as the weekend in a remote house unravels it seems that each member of the party had more to do with the deceased than it first seems, and each has something to hide which informing the police would expose.

The book is hard to read as it flits between the view points of each of the four characters, and both past and present, so you struggle to keep up with what is going on unless you read it in long stretches.  It also struggles with empathy, as each character is exposed as someone is isn’t that likeable; the play each one off against the other, and don’t seem to care about anyone else but themselves.

Many years ago I read ‘Gone Girl’ and felt a similar way about that book. I read it to the finish as I wanted to know what happened with the characters, but I didn’t really like any of them or care that much what happened to them.  This seems to becoming a more prevalent style of writing, both in novels and TV shows, where every character is so flawed you don’t particularly want to root for them.  I recently watched ‘The Affair’ and felt this too.  It probably gives a truer version of the world, but I’m not sure I want to see it.  I want escapism not nasty reality.  I can watch the news for that.  I’ve got no doubt however that this book will get optioned soon as it seem to fit with what TV and film producers are looking for these days.  I don’t think I will be watching.

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Back to School

cardiff-bayCandice:  I’m typing this from an apartment in Cardiff where we have come for a last-minute break before the return to school next week.

I can’t believe it is a whole year since someone started school and what a rollercoaster that has been.  One of the biggest rollercoasters has been trying to work out how to wrangle the new way of life:  Work, childcare and school holidays.

Though my daughter has been in childcare since she was quite young that was different, it was 51 weeks of the year and the hours never changed.  Once she started school things got very different as we had to make sure she had a place in breakfast and after school club, whose opening and closing times were different to what we were used to. There were also after school clubs that she might like to attend, which meant more jiggery-pokery.

I also changed jobs, and went from being employed somewhere with flexible working (i.e. working from home when I wanted) to being at home for a bit, to being somewhere where I had to be in the office set times all the time.  That little voice saying “Why can’t you pick me up earlier?”  really hurt sometimes.

And then finally the saga of school holidays.  Planning if we were going to be away or not, if we weren’t then booking in some time at the school holiday club which had to be done as soon as you got back from the last holiday as it would fill up quickly.  And then the six week holiday…. there were many hours spent with a chart working out who would cover when, if she was going into paid holiday club, where she would go when that wasn’t open, and all the time trying to work out if we could spend some quality time together too.

Somewhere in all of this, I was trying to find some time to write. To be honest I failed miserably.  When I wasn’t working the first time I was too busy trying to get a job that I couldn’t focus on anything else.  Now I am between contracts again but I have a slightly different view and am finally having the time to write.  I’ve taken to going to the library and working there for a few hours to help me concentrate, and its working.  In the last week, I’ve done 4000 words.  So, until something else comes along I will do that as my new ‘job’ and also plan how next time I work I’m going to get the work/life/child balance better.

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Summer at Rose Island

Image result for the lighthouse at rose islandCandice: Phil and I love a good ‘sunlounger read’.  I.e. something that does not tax the mind but whiles away a few hours while taking you to another place. Pure escapism.

They are often the books that get picked up at the airport, just as you making your way to the plane and finally thinking about the relaxation you are going to get on that break (kids club anyone?).

You don’t want educational text, you don’t want War and Peace, you just want to be transported for a few hours to somewhere different and forget about the day to day drudge.  It’s ironic really that you often read these on a break, considering that you are somewhere that you should be escaping the drudge anyway. The Kate series is written with this in mind, something that you will enjoy reading, perhaps discuss with the other half but then give to someone else and moves on to the next one.

I’ve been raiding our local charity shop recently for books to read, I’ve got a bit more time on my hands which means I’ve been racing through a few more reads (probably when I should be writing!).  Poor Phil gets the remainders every time we see each other, good job he carries a sensible rucksack rather than my rather less sensible bag fair.

Anyway, in my riffle through the books, I came across this very chick-lit fair, “Summer at Rose Island”.  The story follows Darcey, who’s moved to a quiet Devon town to escape her disastrous history of jobs.  She has lovely memories of summering there with her Aunt, so hopes by running away to the town she can get away from her overbearing parents and the fact she seems to get sacked from every job.

On her first day, she swims over to the island surrounding the local Lighthouse, and is promptly shooed away by its owner, a burly but attractive American called Riley.  Of course, you can guess what happens next, she and Riley have a few run-ins and then fall in love.  Luckily that happens early in the book, else it would have been boring.

The main thrust of the story is more around the job she has come to work on, something this is not really aware of until she starts.  Recruited as Community Liaison, her job is to support the Council in knocking down the lighthouse, something that she has been trying to prevent in the two weeks before she starts her new job.  It is to be replaced with a luxury hotel as a new lighthouse has been built.  But it is also the focal point of the town and Riley’s family history, as his grandfather originally funded and built it.

Suddenly she is in conflict with him and the town and back where she started, about to be sacked from another job.

The most interesting part of the book to me is her insecurities.  What we actually get to the bottom of is that she trained as a Marine Biologist but left her favourite job due to a silly mistake.  Lacking in confidence as her parents and brother are all medical doctors and see her PhD as something frivolous, she bounces from one job to another.  We never understand why her parents feel like that but when she finally stands up to them it does make you do a little punch in the air.

It’s her marine knowledge that saves the day, in a slightly trite way but hey this is a chick lit book.

Both Phil and I raced through the book, what I actually enjoyed was the scenery as much as the story.  I love the seaside and the pictures in my head of a sleepy seaside town made me dream of where I’d like to retire to one day.

 

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