More than just a book!

It’s that time of year again when the sun is shining (when it isn’t raining) and there are barbecues planned for bank holiday weekends. I’m tentatively thinking about wearing shorts as the forecast says it’ll be 25 degrees by the weekend (but some fake tan is in order because these legs haven’t seen daylight for a long time!) And I’m dreaming about which book I will read as I’m sipping a gin and tonic in the garden. I have a four year old son so this last bit is most definitely a dream. Someone told me recently that when you buy a book what you’re buying is the time to read it. The hope of that time. Never has anything felt truer. I have a stack of time by my bed just ready and waiting! But, as the evenings get longer and holidays are on the horizon, those spare moments to read feel suddenly within grasp. My problem is that instead of reading what I already own, I’ll celebrate by slipping a paperback in with my Sainsbury’s shop or nipping into Waterstones for a book-sized treat. After all, you can never have too much time.

Here’s what’s on my bedside table at the mo… What’s on yours?

(And if you’re looking for a book to escape with then The Summerhouse by the Sea is only 99p at the moment on Amazon. In those pages, I promise, the sun is shining and the
waves are lapping and you’ll feel like you’ve got all the time in the world… )

This month I have been mostly reading and watching…

The first part of this year has involved a lot of reading and film watching! The desire for escapism is at its peak at the moment.

So here are my highlights…

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LIE WITH ME – Sabine Durrant.

Brilliant. Addictive. Clever and witty and sharp, like I was watching in real life. Not a word on the page wasted.

THE ESSEX SERPENT – Sarah Perry

I was given this to read. It wouldn’t have been my first choice because I’d have assumed it would take too long and I have very little time. But I was surprised by the pace and the quirks. You can actually whip through it and then go back and linger on the clever, beautiful bits. A bundle of unique characters all vividly still with you long after the book is finished.

20170213_122546THE NAKANO THRIFT SHOP – Hiromi Kawakami

I LOVED this! It was a present and I’ve never read any Japanese translated fiction before but I will now. I realised while reading this that there are some books you want to race through to the end and others that you just want to live inside. You go to bed half an hour early to be in the pages. This for me was that. I just adored being in the gentle, clever, sweet, interesting, intriguing world. A lovely book.

20170213_121258LA LA LAND

I’ve already written a whole piece about this. But I would say, it’s the only film I’ve been to the cinema to see twice. And the only film I’ve been to the cinema to see on my own! Shock horror. But the seal has been broken, I’m going to go solo way more often. It’s very mellow (once you’ve moved away from the people chatting over popcorn through all the emotional bits).

WESTWORLD (TV version)

This was a roller coaster for me. Brilliant at the beginning. Bit slow in the middle and a bit too focused on the violence. Excellent at the end.

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Completely not what I expected! I sat down thinking it would be all Wes Anderson kooky and then suddenly everyone is running around half-naked killing deer. But it’s really good! And Viggo’s great.

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY

So nice to be back in Bridget’s world. Fall-off-the-sofa funny at times. Best choice at the end but worried that Bridget would still be lonely once credits rolled.

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And, in case you’re interested, in the Under 3s world I have enjoyed:

TOPSY AND TIM – massive nostalgia, so strong I can almost taste it.

TOR FREEMAN – Brilliant illustrator.

More SHIRLEY HUGHES – can’t get enough of Alfie and Lucy & Tom

TOY STORY 1, 2 & 3 – just get better every time you watch them (I may live to regret that statement).

 

 

Not a bad start to the year, as far as excellent escapism goes.

J x

It’s Looking Like Christmas!

 

20161203_221806I can’t quite believe that Christmas is so close. The fact I’ve been preparing for it the last two months is by the by. It’s almost here!! And it’s too soon. I’d like to cut and paste another week into my calendar before Sunday is upon us. Because, unlike my two-and-a-half-year old, I’ve finally realised that Christmas is all about the build up. The anticipation. It’s about the trip to buy the tree and trying to strap it to the car roof; the fumbling in the cupboard on a precariously balanced stepladder searching out the decorations; the excitement of a misty morning train journey up to London for Christmas shopping before the hustle and bustle reality kicks in; angelthe squeezing in of a completely unplanned lunch with friends; the standing for HOURS in the toy shop while every available toy is carefully examined and every button pressed; the dubious Christmas films far far down the Freeview Channel list; the fierce new angel for the tree and other nursery school decs; the numerous gold chocolate coins; the VERY bad Santa costume on the Christmas Lights Up night ‘Mummy, that’s not Santa, it’s a lady!’; the cosy nights in and the cold bundled-up nights out; the winter wonderland walks and the sweet, sickly mulled wine; it’s the wrapping, the shiny new Sellotape dispenser and the blasting Christmas music. It’s everything everyday that can be crammed under the heading Christmas and we’ve got two more days left to cram in as much as we can! Ready? Get set, go!

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#CHRISTMAS

It’s all go on the Christmas front, so I thought I’d give you a quick update. The latest Cherry Pie Island book, Four Weddings and a White Christmas, is available to download now http://amzn.to/1MXpMP4 and is brimming with all things Christmas. In it we meet cool single-mum Hannah and fiery, kinda moody chef Harry and watch as they (somewhat reluctantly) get to know one another over the course of four very different weddings. It’s funny, flirty, packed full of romance and, of course, there’s heaps of snow! I hope you’ll love it (whether you have or haven’t read the previous Cherry Pie books).

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And then, super excitingly, there’s The Little Christmas Kitchen which is now available in shiny, sparkly paperback from all the major supermarkets, WHSmith and Amazon http://amzn.to/1LS2Z6p. This is a standalone Christmas book following the lives of estranged sisters Ella and Maddy as they life-swap for the festive season. One leaves her high-flying London life behind in favour of The Little Greek Kitchen run by her mother on the island of Corfu. The other leaves idyllic island life and heads to the big city ready to make her mark on the world. But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! As the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.

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I LOVE Christmas. And I LOVE Christmas books. I really hope you love these books as much as I loved writing them. Let me know either here or on Twitter @JenOliverBooks.

And for anyone who wants to know a bit more about my Christmas – all its traditions and my fave things – as well as all things writing, below is an interview I gave for @UKCarina. Enjoy! And 100% let me know whatever you want to share about your Christmas – the traditions, the songs, the smells, the tastes. Let’s get festive!

Tell us what your average writing day is like? 

  • I divide my time between writing and my day job depending on deadlines. If it’s a writing day then I will either be making notes and plans in my notebook for that story or working on the draft on my laptop. Since having my son my time to write and work has become very defined – I’ve lost the luxury of procrastination! Although I do still find the time to find the perfect notebooks! 😉

Where do you write?

  • I write at my desk in my flat with the door shut so I’m completely cocooned. If I’m making story notes though I tend to go out to a cafe for a change of scene or go for a walk if I’m stuck on something. I come up with ideas on long car journeys talking to my husband or on the phone to my mum or when I’m trying to convince my toddler to nap or while I’m in the bath!

This is your third Christmas story and as ever the food on the Christmas table is really important. What’s on your Christmas menu?

– We have a really traditional Christmas menu – turkey, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, stuffing, Christmas pudding etc – and, similar to Harry’s dad in Four Weddings and a White Christmas, if it’s messed with there are tantrums!

We see The Dandelion Café is being decorated with all sorts of retro ornaments for a Kitschmas wedding! Do you go all out with Christmas decorations or is it minimalist chic?

  • Decorations are a massive part of Christmas for me. I used to love it when my mum had decked out our house with garlands of holly and ivy growing up – it meant Christmas had truly begun. And I try to carry on that tradition in my place. Last year I strung lots of tiny multi-coloured baubles to brown garden string and hung them along the walls of my living room – for something so easy to create the look is really effective. I also bought some beautiful vintage silver glass ornaments from a car boot sale but I put them in the bottom of the buggy and then forgot they were there when I folded it down – they shattered everywhere, I was gutted! This year though I have a whole bag of new decs that I bought in the January sale last year – I can’t wait to get them out and admire them.

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In the story all of Hannah’s family gather in the morning to open stockings. What are your Christmas rituals?

– Well I stole the one for Hannah’s family from my own! We always opened our stockings together as a family and, if we’re all staying in the same place, still get them. Me and my sisters make ones for my mum and dad and they make them for us. We sit round the fire in the morning with cups of tea and see what little gifts we’ve been given.

Harry walks New York at Christmas – have you got any favourite places to go at Christmas time?

– I love the Southbank at Christmas. It’s all-out festive with markets, mulled wine and carols. We also try and go to the Scandinavian Christmas Fair in Rotherhithe every year – it’s well worth a visit because it’s just so Christmassy and you can buy all sorts of different foods, wines and gifts. I love it. http://www.scanevents.co.uk/christmasmarket/partners.html

Christmas every day or sunny summer holiday? 

– Both but only once a year. The anticipation is 90% of the fun.

What’s the best thing about Christmas?

– The build up. I like the shopping for presents, the get-togethers with friends, the family catch-ups, the skating rinks and all the little things that take you by surprise – last year there was a Christmas evening in the high street near us with real live reindeer!

What’s your favourite Christmas smell?

– Walking into the house the day after the Christmas tree has gone up. The surprise of the scent of pine is like a shot of Christmas adrenaline.

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Give us a Christmas memory that makes you smile?

– When I was about ten my older sister bet me that I couldn’t wait till after lunch to open my presents (up till that point I’d spent every Christmas morning hurrying people through breakfast so we could open the gifts). Since then it’s become a family tradition to wait till after lunch for present opening.

What is your favourite Christmas film? 

– Either Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life. Although the year before last we went to see Cinema Paradiso at the cinema a couple of nights before Christmas and now it fills me with Christmas nostalgia. I also have a soft spot for Mrs Miracle with Dawson from Dawson’s Creek in it.

Favourite Christmas song?

  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas sung by Dean Martin.

Is it better to give or receive?

– I love buying presents – it’s one of my favourite things. There’s nothing better than nailing the perfect present for someone and then seeing the look on their face when they open it.

What’s the last thing you snapped on your phone?

– A screen shot of my book The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe at #5 in the Kindle chart and a video of my son laughing so hard he has to lie down.

What was the last book you read?

The Ice Twins. I was home alone and completely spooked.

Which piece of wisdom do you live by?

– The less time I have the more likely I am to get it done!