Tag Archives: chick-lit

The Picture House by the Sea for pedants

The picture house by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferrelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice-cream for miles.
 
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, breaks his leg, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local renovation expert Ben, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory. 
But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?

Phil: There’s a lot of this book – 449 pages to be precise – and it’s a really good fun read. You can probably guess the outcome from the first page (Spoiler: she ends up with the hunky old friend and all ends well) but this doesn’t really matter. In fact, it might even be that the lack of jeopardy is part of the reason I rattled through it and enjoyed the lot.

My only diversion was to check whether the town of Polwhipple in Cornwall actually exists – it doesn’t – but then the story lives in that special universe where a lot of light chick-lit exists. The sun shines, you can survive financially from a vintage clothes shop or give up your job in London for 4 months and not be bankrupt. I imagine it’s the same world that many TV shows inhabit where a columnist for a local paper services the mortgage on his 4-bed house in the capitals suburbs. We’d like to live there, but as we can’t a little holiday will suffice.

However, I feel that there are few points I need to pick up:

Ben did not show Gina around the signal room and ticket office at the local preserved railway. He gave her a tour of the signal BOX and ticket office. That’s as annoying as suggesting they would go to the train station to do this…

Cinemas don’t have “archive rooms”. Films do arrive on multiple reels as described but before the projectionist shows them, each length of film is stuck to the others and then wound onto a big reel. This is 4ft in diameter (a bit more for Lord of the Rings) and weighs as much as a small child. Trust me, you don’t lose one! Each print of a film costs about a grand so the distributors want them back after you’ve finished showing – the only thing you might find in the cupboards are trailers and that’s only because they don’t chase when no-one bothers sending them back. If you want to save your cinema by showing old films, you’ll need to order them from your distributor, although it can be done – and it is popular with audiences.

One area where the book is spot on is that all volunteers on a preserved railway, indeed railway enthusiasts generally, are hunky surfers with rock hard six-packs. And they always get the girl.

I think La Nolan passed this book on to me as I have been a projectionist, and can be described as a railway enthusiast (If you said “trainspotter”, you are both wrong and due a slap) so would either enjoy the story or niggle at the details.

Just to be awkward, I’m going to do both.

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Who’s that Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

Phil: The moment you read that title, you heard the Eurithmics in your head didn’t you?

Well, I did. Presented with the book by Candice over cake, I wasn’t sure. It looked very chick-lit, but I know she wouldn’t be shoving anything rubbish my way so I gave it a go.

We first meet Edie at a wedding. During the day, just after the speeches, the groom decides to snog her. The bride spots this and things all fall apart.

Friends and colleagues not only abandon her, but thanks to the joys of social media (this is very much a book set NOW), they gang up and start bullying her. Leaving London for the family home in Nottingham, she has to face a father who has never really recovered from the death of her mother and a sister to hates her. That and getting used to not being in the capital.

The move north is partly engineered by her boss and involves ghost writing a celeb biography for the latest blokey hot totty from something that sounds a lot like Game of Thrones. He’s filming in the city, doesn’t want the autobiog written due to a secret in his past.

Basically, everyone has secrets (Edie wasn’t having an affair with the groom, but was flirting) and needs to take control of their lives. So much so standard. If I tell you any more, then SPOILERS.

What sets this apart is it’s a very modern book. We get loads of social media and also old-skool media problems. A row in a nightclub with the totty results in Edie being identified in the papers as a mystery woman attached to him. This gives her vile and bitchy workmates a chance to sell their stories. There are loads of communication channels, including an internal e-mail system that provides the chance for some blackmail and they all help to build the pressure on our main characters in a way that you don’t see in most books.

Even the ending, while leaving room for a sequel, is convincing and plays like grown-ups making decisions. Not very chick-lit at all, in a good way.

Not living in a metropolitan bubble, I found some of the workmate characters hard to relate to. They are bitchy and quite frankly, childish. Some of the actions are more playground bullying than proper adult behaviour – however, that’s because I live in a different, and probably considerably less well paid, world. That said, I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s a proper page turner with plenty of twists and turns along the way. The main characters all develop and change during the story and lots of loose ends get tied up in a way that satisfies the reader.

Lots of short chapters too which builds the pace and, as I found, keeps you reading. Not quite enough to persuade me to take that girly cover on a train mind you, even though by that point I really wanted too!

 

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What do I do now?

Capture

 

Candice: Its my turn to write the blog post after the big launch.  And I don’t know what to say.

We’ve done what we wanted to do – published a book.  Phil even has physical copies for me to fondle later this week. So that’s it then…

I suppose the next step is to make sure we do some serious marketing to get people to buy it.  I’ve done an unashamed plug at work and sent an email round the whole department – so that should get some bought.  I’ve plugged on Facebook and Twitter as has Phil.  Now we need to ramp up the next bit – local press.  Time for a cheesy photo when we meet on Friday to send out to the press.

And then its more plugging over the next few months until the next book comes out.  I gave Phil a scare as I put in that Book 2 would be out in the summer, well we all love a deadline, but I think that is achievable as we have made a good dent in it and I have 5 days holiday to use by the end of March so I think some of them can be writing days.

I think the big build up is why I feel crap today – I’ve come down with a cold and nasty cough.  I just wish I was enjoying the fruits of my labour on a beach like my sister (not jealous at all).

So, plug time, don’t forget to buy Kate vs the Dirtboffins, now available on Amazon!

 

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RIP to the Hollywood Bonk Buster

Candice: I was saddened and shocked to hear of the death of Jackie Collins the other day.

I have to say I read quite a few of her books and though not pulitzer prize winning fiction they certainly entertained me while lying on a sunlounger. Before the days of out and out sex in Fifty Shades, Jackie was letting her ladies give the gents a ‘one two’ in great detail, but without all the breathy tosh.

It is a shame to hear of anyone dying, whether by cancer or any other means, but I would like to think that Jackie had a full life writing her fun, entertaining books which mocked most core American characters.

I don’t think Phil and I will ever hit those dizzy heights, there isn’t enough sex in our books to drive that kind of audience, but we’d like to aspire to be some where in that league.  Oh to have the time to write 32 novels!

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I kept thinking, “What would Kate do?”

highland flingPhil: According to the Mail on Sunday, Katie Fforde books are “A cross between Joanna Trollope and Tom Sharpe”. Quite a lot like our style of writing, so having been passed the book by my sister, I thought it would be an enjoyable read.

Instead, I wanted to throw the thing out of the window,

Jenny Porter is a “Virtual Assistant”. She works for several clients, communicating by e-mail and never meeting them. Her biggest client, Mr Grant-Dempsey asks her to got and visit a Scottish mill he has lent money to. She is to write a report on which he will decide if it’s time to pull the plug on the business. The mill is run by the Dalmain family headed by the matriarch mother of the clan.

On the way she stops off at a roadside cafe where she encounters Meggie, a twig on the Dalmain family tree. Meggie is heavily pregnant and within a few pages, Jenny is serving at the cafe and her first customer is Ross Grant. She takes an immediate dislike, throws his coffee over him and generally behaves like a petulant 12 year old.

Some of you will have guessed that Ross Grant and Mr Grant-Dempsey are the same person. My computer has, as it keeps auto suggesting the name. Jenny takes half a book to make the connection.

Part of the “problem” is that she fancies the pants off Mr D, which she shows by continuing to behave like a child at every opportunity. Convinced that he plans to close the mill despite her efforts to find a way for it to make money, every single encounter is marked by him being reasonable and normal and her throwing a huff.

The high, or low point, comes when she and the office manager present their report on the future of the mill. She throws a strop and runs off to the loo for the entire meeting.

It doesn’t get any better after this either. Jenny goes for a Christmas walk in the snow and is rescued by Ross. They shag in a snow hole but by Hogmanay she’s spitting like a wildcat despite her spending the intervening time bedridden with flu and not talking to him. In spite of this, he asks her to marry him.

I nearly binned this half way through. Only the completionist within me made me push on to the end. This is one book that isn’t going to be passed on to Candice. She’d be punching the pages in frustration.

When we wrote “Kate vs The Dirtboffins”, the female lead was never going to be some winsome girl whose only interest in life was finding a man. As I read this, all I could think was that Kate might have fancied Ross, but she’d have been icily efficient in all the business dealings. He wouldn’t have been wearing his coffee and the big meeting to save the mill wouldn’t involve any hiding in the toilet.

And you know what? She’d still have got her man, if she wanted him. Ross Grant is a very rich businessman. Are we really saying that he’d be chasing someone who kept throwing tantrums every time they met? Assuming he is a self-made man he’d be much more impressed with someone who showed she had brains and determination.

OK, I’m not really the target market but surely I can’t have been the only one reading this wishing someone would grab the lead character, give her a good shake and should the something including the words “get a grip”. For the sake of our book, I just hope that there are plenty of people out there who prefer their leads strong.

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NolanParker: Status report

the future soonPhil: On Tuesday, La Nolan was inspired by the clocks changing to look to the future. Following on from this, I thought it would be a good idea to bring regular readers up to date with where we are. There’s been a lot of stuff going on in the background while we’ve been rambling about other topics and I’d hate you to think that we’ve been entirely idle.

Starting with the biggie – Yes, we are going to be published. Eshewing the traditional routes to publication of sending dozens of copies of our manuscript to be thrown away by agents, we’re working with a start-up company to get our work out there. Sales will be via e-book but then this didn’t do 50 Shades of Grey any harm did it? More to the point, if you look at the number of iPads and Kindles on trains, even the most traditional reader has to conclude something is going on. Contracts have been signed and feedback received. They are very excited about the book and so when the site launches, we’ll be on there.

In preparation for this, the book has a new cover and we’ve got quite a bit of extra writing to do. Nothing major but the sort of tweaks that you’d expect when someone who isn’t the author reads the story. Since the people we are working with are bang in the middle of the target demographic for the book, this is particularly valuable.

More details will follow in due course. At the moment I don’t want to elaborate too much, partly because I’m superstitious but mostly because I want to you to keep coming back to find out…

With this in mind, Book 2 is slowly taking shape. I’ve found what I think is the perfect location to set it and even have a rough story outline in my head which Candice will be shooting at next week with a bit of luck. Our stories have to be written in two parts. There’s the background action where everything is set and the overarching story arc featuring our main characters and the way their lives intertwine. Having some idea how this pans out in the future will help us tidy up Dirtboffins as well as helping us see the way in the future.

As mentioned on Tuesday, I’ve just come back from the longest flights I’ve ever endured. On my visits to Hong Kong and Australia, I took a lot of photos and there are some really lovely places out there. If the organisers of the Adelaide Literary festival are reading and you fancy inviting over a couple of new British authors, I’m sure we could be available!

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Bad Sisters by Rebecca Chance

Candice: My excuse for my post being late today is that I’m actually on Australian time to correspond with Phil’s travels…

Anyway, while he is off swanning (I’m allowed to say that this time as he is actually on proper holiday) then I’ve got a lovely piece of throwaway holiday writing to blog about.

I picked by ‘Bad Sisters’ from my trusty charity shop in Stratford.  The cover hit the right note, heels and sparkles, and I knew by the synopsis on the back this wasn’t going to be Chaucer. Well I dived in late in to my holiday after reading some crime fiction and then disappeared into the world of easy reading for a few days.

The book is about three sisters – Maxie, Devon and Deeley.  Each leading separate lives because many years ago they bumped off their step father because Maxie said he was touching her up.  Cut to 20 years later and Deeley is back from her comfortable life in LA with no man and no money, Devon is eating her way through her house not to face her marriage troubles and Maxie is social climbing with her politician husband.

Along the way they rub each other up the wrong way, go off with each other’s husbands and have sex (but not that much for a ‘bonkbuster’) before Deeley opens her big mouth and drops them all in it.  The Police come knocking, all hell breaks loose and one of them gets her comeuppance.

I read this book so quickly I skipped whole sections due to the fact I didn’t really care that much what happened, I just wanted to find out who did it in the end.  I suppose that’s the good part, I did want to know what happened, but on the way I wasn’t worried who I trampled on, as I didn’t care for any of the sisters apart from Deeley.

Its funny this book, as I finished it, and I might consider another Rebecca Chance novel, but I didn’t think it was the greatest chic lit of this style I’d read because, though Maxie wasn’t the nicest of character – I didn’t really find her one to hate either, which might have made other things make more sense.

Even though what Phil and I have written is classed as Chic Lit comedy I still think it has more depth that this, I’d like our stories to be something that people don’t finish and immediately think I’ll throw that in the charity bag.

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