Flash Fiction Winner: ‘Beautiful’

I’m pleased to share the winning entry of April’s Flash Fiction Competition!  The theme for April was ‘beautiful’, and the judges enjoyed Nicky’s short story about a disillusioned mother and the relationship with her son.

You can read her winning story below:


Perfect day for it. Could have gone either way, really. If I’d gone to the gym first I’d have talked myself out of it, definitely. An endorphin-fuelled shallow sense of contentment. No, it was now-or-never. Done with the pretence, too old to care what people think. Growing this thick-skin recently felt bloody amazing. With the big year approaching, well, it’s just shouting out for a big decision, isn’t it? Besides, I still haven’t struck off half the things on my bucket list. Been all about you from the start; you, my one and only, my son. Now nearly 16. You’d get it; you of everyone. You’d been allowed to follow your dreams. Me, parenting solo, always was over-compensating for the absent one. There had been the trumpet years, the Nintendo years, the karate obsession, the violin and drama classes. The holidays to Disney and Thorpe Park. I was there enjoying myself too, don’t get me wrong. But not properly. Worry always there. Would you fit in at your new school? Worry I’d get a knock on the door at midnight with news you’d been in a road accident. Would you pass your exams? Would you start to resent me for my failed relationship? Any hopes and plans of my own were discarded, buried with my former self. Just what you have to do, what we all do, isn’t it? My life coach kept cheering me on that now I had to step into my own power.

Gave you a hug, pulled you close to my chest this morning as you went to kiss me goodbye. Smell of your shampooed hair made me wobble. “Mum!  Get off! My mates will see.” Don’t think I didn’t spot that smile fighting with your top lip there.

“Your dad’s picking you up today from football. Don’t be late.” Christ, how I said that so matter-of-factly. So driven lately. Nothing was going to get in the way. Been paying an arm and a leg for those life coaching sessions. About time my investment paid off.
“Can’t you, Mum?  Don’t wanna see him. I’m old enough now to make my own decisions.”
“All in good time, love.” Waving a bit too manically as you hurry out the car. When did you get so tall? Catching a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror, I wince. When did I get so lined?

I’m putting my foot down. Driving past the school playing fields, past the railway tracks, swing onto the ring road. Clock the traffic sign for Dover. Open the glove compartment. Guide book, check. Euros check. One way to Calais. Check. Shoulders drop, face muscles relax. I switch the dial from Radio 4 to Kiss fm. Bill Withers. I tap out the beat on the steering wheel, joining in. ‘And the world’s alright with me…’ The light bouncing off the windows on the houses in front never looked so beautiful.


The Flash Fiction Competition is returning on Tuesday 1st August 2017.  Check the Flash Fiction page for more information!

Emma

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May 1, 2017
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First Lines Friday: 5th May

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

Carl Sagan said that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. When he says “from scratch,” he means from nothing. He means from a time before the world even existed.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

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The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

28763485

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Goodreads Summary:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?


This is my current read at the moment, and I’m loving it!  Nicola Yoon has such a natural way with words, and the writing is effortless to read.  I’m also enjoying the dual-narrative aspect and the chapters providing backstory to more minor characters – in that sense it reminds me of the narrative style in The Book Thief.  It’s quirky; I like it.

Though for some reason I can’t wrap my head around the title.  I seem determined to accidentally call it “The Sun Is Not A Star” whenever anyone asks me what I am reading, which I’m quite sure ruins the entire message of the book…

Check out the First Lines Fridays archive for more posts like this!

Happy reading,

Emma

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April 28, 2017
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Five Reasons to Read Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

 

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

I recently finished this fantastic graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, which is probably the longest graphic novel I’ve ever read too!  Though some elements were a little repetitive, the concept as a whole really inspired me, and I wanted to share five reasons why you simply must read this book:

  1. IT’S FANTASY!  Our protagonist, Katie, begins to consume magical mushrooms that allow her to fix mistakes of the past.  Set on creating a perfect world, Katie doesn’t notice that there is an unsettled shadow growing restless in the basement… I didn’t realise when I picked up the book that it would be of the fantasy genre (the cover is somewhat ambiguous).  House spirits and dark forces lurking?  I found it captivating!
  2. THE ILLUSTRATIONS ARE ADORABLE.  Although I haven’t read Scott Pilgrim (only seen the film, which is amazing), Seconds has the same flavour of weird and wonderful about it.  Every page is full of detail and colour, and I love the manga-esque style, particularly in Katie’s facial expressions.  Even the choice of layout and typeface really appealed to me.Seconds
  3. THE PROTAGONIST IS A STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMAN.  Katie runs her own business and knows how to stand up for herself, and her sass is the source of much humour.  It’s nice to read stories where the struggling female doesn’t need rescuing by a man!
  4. THE WRITING IS HILARIOUS.  Bryan Lee O’Malley seems to be some kind of comedy genius.  His characters are so funny.  There’s plenty of great little details, like Katie’s occasional sassy comments to the narrator of the story.
  5. IT MAKES YOU THINK.  Despite her strong nature, Katie becomes fixated on mending her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, leaving her own future and friendships on the verge of collapse.  It brings up the question of how far people are willing to go for love – is a relationship worth losing everything for?  How far would you go?

Want more info?  Check out Goodreads.

Want to buy?  Free shipping at The Book Depository!

Happy reading!

Emma

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April 21, 2017
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Papergang March Unboxing

I appreciate the April box is looming, but I thought I would quickly share my first experience of Papergang by showing what arrived last month (and hey, at least there’s no spoilers).

The Papergang box is a monthly stationery subscription box full of goodies by Ohh Deer.  As a bit of a stationery addict, it really appealed to me, but also it is U.K. based, which means I don’t have to pay £5000 for delivery.  The cost of the box is £9.95, plus £1.95 for delivery.

I was really excited when the box arrived – top marks for creative packaging!  The items were wrapped up in an abundance of blue tissue paper (which I’ll certainly be reusing for gift wrap) and everything had seemingly survived the journey unscathed.

The box contained half a dozen items, including a pencil, a card, calendar postcards for May and April (see photo below) and three notebooks.  Three.  They’re three very lovely notebooks, but I do think it would have made more sense to swap out one for a different kind of item, like stickers (everybody loves stickers).

So, despite the pretty colour scheme and packaging, I was a little underwhelmed by my first Papergang experience.  When you compare it to previous boxes, like January’s box, I feel the items on offer were quite weak, but they do go nicely together as a collection, and I’ve found a purpose for everything that I received.

January’s Papergang Box – arguably much, much better! (Photo Source: https://papergang.ohhdeer.com/)

Annoyingly, I got caught out again by the auto-renewal system (will I never learn?!) but actually I’m quite happy to have another box on the way.  I can’t say I’d want a delivery every month, as I physically don’t have room for any more notebooks, but I think I will treat myself to one every now and again.

Emma

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April 20, 2017
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First Lines Friday: 24th March

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

You have to be quick,
none of this pretending to be browsing business
that some shoplifters go for.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

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We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary:

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?


I actually didn’t really dig this book.  Why pick a book I don’t like for First Lines Friday?  Well, Sarah Crossan’s One was insanely good, and I’m sure fans of her work will still appreciate her latest novel.  For me though, the whole thing was just slightly underwhelming.  I can see it working well as a film, but in this style – the poetic. tumbling-down-the-page writing that I’ve come to know Sarah Crossan for – I just don’t think the story works.  Still, it has some excellent first lines!

Check out the First Lines Fridays archive for more posts like this!

Happy reading,

Emma

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March 24, 2017
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Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

25573977TITLE: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

AUTHOR: Katarina Bivald

GENRE: Adult, Fiction, Chick Lit

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Swedish tourist in Iowa must be in want of a man.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Travelling to a small American town in Iowa to meet her pen pal, Swedish bookworm Sara is surprised to learn that Amy has recently passed away.  To honour Amy’s friendship with this shy tourist, the people of Broken Wheel decide to take Sara under their wing, determined to keep her around for as long as possible – even if that means trying to set her up with one of the locals.  Set on repaying the town, Sara opens up a bookshop, determined to get the town reading…

I love that this was a book about books – that element of it was really fun.  There were references to dozens of books and authors I love, and Sara’s passion and enthusiasm for reading was so infectious.  Other than that, Sara’s personality fell a little flat for me.  I would also have liked to have heard more about Sara’s backstory too.  It felt like there was the potential to make her really interesting – for example, she is from Sweden (as is the author) and it might have been fun to learn a little of her culture or to have seen even a few words of Swedish.

Though Sara was a pretty plain protagonist, this did allow for the book to revolve around the town rather than one person.  I thought the locals of Broken Wheel had tons of personality – I loved George, a recovering alcoholic with a heart of gold, and Grace, the tough-as-nails bar owner, and I can understand why Sara didn’t want to leave.

The plot really was so obvious, but that does seem to be the case with most chick lits I’ve read – it is a safe read in that respect, and that isn’t necessarily a criticism.  My biggest problem however was the chemistry between Sara and Tom.  I just didn’t feel it at all.  Even scenes of intimacy seemed kind of awkward… I don’t know, I’ve read reviews where people really enjoyed their chemistry, but they seemed like a real unnatural match to me.  Of course I still rooted for them, because I’m not a complete spoilsport!  Even so, in terms of relationships, I’d say I found the complications of Justin falling for an older woman – who, I won’t say – far more engaging than the core relationship of this novel.

TL;DR: The main romance is questionable, but the people of Broken Wheel more than make up for it.  Sara will make you remember why you fell in love with reading.

Star Rating: ★★★¾ (3.75/5)

Emma

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March 23, 2017
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The House of the Tailor of Gloucester

I recently visited the city of Gloucester, a city with a rich Roman history, residing in the South West of England.  I was travelling to see friends, to experience a new city, but secretly, secretly, I was most excited about seeing the House of the Tailor of Gloucester.

The story goes that one Saturday night a tailor left his shop, a waistcoat unfinished within.  Come Monday morning, the waistcoat was mysteriously complete, all but one button, with a note saying “no more twist” attached.  Though I believe it was later found to be two workers who had done some overtime in secret to avoid being seen on Sunday in town, Beatrix Potter was inspired by the story nonetheless, and chose it as the setting for her book, The Tailor of Gloucester.

The shop is down a quaint little lane between the high street and the Cathedral.  Admittedly, the first time I walked down there, I walked straight past it, distracted at the time by the arts and crafts shop on the other side of the street.  The building is part shop, part museum, with information dotted around the walls, items in cabinets, and literally every surface covered with memorabilia.  It was almost overwhelming how much could be fit into such a small space!

It’s only a small thing, fifteen minutes of your day, but if you are in Gloucester, I recommend popping in and having a look around.  There’s some sweet Beatrix Potter souvenirs and entry to the museum part of the building is (miraculously) absolutely free!

Check out the shop’s website for more information.

Happy travels!

Emma

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March 14, 2017
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Book Review: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

TITLE: The Gigantic Beard That Was EvilThe Gigantic Beard that was Evil

AUTHOR: Stephen Collins

GENRE: Fiction, Graphic Novel

Beneath the skin of everything is something nobody can know.  The job of the skin is to keep it all in and never let anything show.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

One day, on the island of Here, an enormous, unruly beard explodes from Dave’s face.  It disrupts society, throwing life into chaos as the beard begins to threaten the order of things.  It is too reminiscent of There, the dark unknown land beyond the edge of Here.  The people work together to contain the beard, but it just continues to grow and grow…

I have (almost) nothing but praise for this book.  What I expected to be just a funny story about facial hair ended up being something so much more.  Of course, it was still funny – a gigantic beard is a funny thing; the entire concept was hilariously far-fetched, but it was the message that really moved me.

In a safe, organised society, the beard represents the uncontrollable, the unknown: change.  And what do we do with these things that disrupt our sense of “normal” – we fear it, try to remove it.  Even if that means hurting people.

The question of where the beard came from is still unclear, but I don’t think that matters.  Change is inevitable.  It made me consider some of the current situations happening in the world today – perhaps with a little more flexibility, a little more tolerance, there would be less “Here” and “There”, less “Us” and “Them”.

For a book about a beard, it certainly was a thought-provoking read.  Was the beard really evil?  Personally, I don’t think so.  It just needed the space to grow.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Emma

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March 8, 2017
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First Lines Friday: 3rd March

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

First of all, I’m sorry.  Second of all, you’re welcome.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary:

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.


This is one of the many eBooks I was recently given.  I’ve popped it onto my Kindle, ready for when I’m done with The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.  I have heard mixed reviews about it but from the first page (and first lines) it sounds quite funny, so I’m willing to give it a shot.

What are you reading at the moment?

Check out the First Lines Fridays archive for more posts like this!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | Facebook

March 3, 2017
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Round-Robin Fiction: Haven

I’ve wanted to try something like this for a while – a round-robin way of storytelling, where everyone has a chance to shape the story.  The idea is that I will start off below with an opening, and if you want to add to the story, simply post your few lines or paragraph (though no longer than 150-200 words) below as a comment.  I’ll pick the “best fit” to add to the story – make sure you leave a name too, so you can be credited for your contribution!  You can join in the story at any time, don’t be shy.

Who knows how long the story will be, or what will happen along the way…


There was something dainty in the way Sally stepped between the shards of broken glass towards the kiosk.  A sort of grace in the manner she held herself at all times, Kian thought, that she refused to lose despite the dark grey sky and far-off glow of flame on the horizon.  They’d been doing well recently too, and there was some colour in her cheeks again – she looked good, and he could almost imagine what she had looked like without those weary, searching eyes, with her cheeks a little plumper.  Whilst he waited for her to catch up, Kian looked out the little window across Haven Park with a frown.  The grass, once a luscious green, lay dead and crisp.  Trees hung limp, their leafless branches brushing the dry ground.  They hadn’t seen anyone for days now.

 

February 28, 2017
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