A Q&A With Marieke Nijkamp!

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

Are you ready to play?

Ahead of her new book coming out I was able to as Marieke a few questions about Even If We Break, writing and what she likes to read.

The new book is one that sounds perfect for the Autumn evenings with Halloween not far away – what gave you the idea for it?

I love cabin in the woods type stories, and I really wanted to write a book that centred around a roleplaying group and friendships. RPGs have always been a big part of my life, and I’d been wanting to play with them in fiction more. In this case, what happens when friendships start to shatter and a previously closely knit group goes awry.

If you could explain the book in 5 words – how would you describe it?

A roleplaying game turns deadly.

How do you plan your novels? Do you have a process you stick to?

I plot and plan a lot in advance. For this, there was an extensive timeline and lots of flashcards. I also wrote an extensive outline during edits, because it helped me and my editor keep track of everything.

What would your advice be for people who want to write and publish a novel?

Learn as much as you can. Write the books you want to read. And persevere.

What is the best book you’ve read in 2020 so far?

For YA murder mysteries: Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe. I’ve been recommending that book far and wide, because I love it so.

For YA that fills your heart and makes you dance: Lyla Lee’s I’ll Be The One, which is joy in book form.

For YA that makes you feel seen: Kacen Callender’s Felix Ever After, which is about love and identity and embracing who you are.

And if you’re looking for a good graphic novel recommendation: Niki Smith’s The Deep and Dark Blue, which made me cry in a good way. Oh, and also check out Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon, which is a modern type fairytale. And Kiku Hughes’s Displacement, about history and memory. And Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux’s Shadow of the Batgirl, because Cassandra Cain is the best and I’m always hear for Oracle!Babs.

Let’s just stick to seven recommendations. That’s a reasonable answer to your question, right?

Thank you to Marieke for chatting to me and Midas PR for the opportunity!

Twenty-Six

I am now twenty-six years old.

In my head I still feel about nineteen and when I see pictures of people going off to uni I want to shout ‘take me with you, I’m not ready to be a grown up!’ Which is still because I starting uni seven years ago (thanks to Ali for reminding me of that one).

Leading up to my birthday, something I always get excited about, I was nervous. My original plan (pre pandemic) was to be in Disneyland for the week, come back the night before my birthday and go out to celebrate on the day because it was finally on a Friday. Nope, can’t happen.

Then I organised a small BBQ with close friends to celebrate. Then the rule of six came in. Right, let’s go again. Time after time plans had to change so I was a little apprehensive about my birthday. I didn’t need to be I actually had a really wonderful day full of surprises.

There are the most wonderful people in my life who bought me gifts, sent me messages, baked cakes, sent things to my house to surprise me. I was, and still am, in awe of it all. How loved I felt, how even though I couldn’t really see people I had a full heart and felt on top of the world.

So why, only two days later did I find myself feeling anxious and sad?

I know that twenty-six isn’t going to be the year I thought it would be. My last year of my mid-twenties was also going to be the year I finally married the man I love. With each day that passes we get closer to the fact that we’re almost certain we’re going to have to postpone our wedding. Instead of the plans we had we’ll be packing up our flat to move.

These things are coming and while I try not to be doom and gloom I know they will be hard – but I’m hoping good things will come out of it too. There are silver linings and I am going to make the most of them.

I cannot predict a thing about what’s to come this year – so I guess it’s time to just go with it.

What I Read In July & August 2020

What I Read In July & August 2020

While I was struggling to write I didn’t do my wrap ups but I was still reading a lot! So, here’s a bumper wrap up of some of the books I was reading, including a few new favourites and some that are almost certainly going to be in my top books of the year…

July

Both of these were ARCs from Netgalley. Coffee Days Whisky Nights by Cyrus Parker was a great collection of poems that I personally could relate to. Finding both the light and the dark, the hope and the pain in life is woven through the pages. Once I finished I immediately wanted to start reading again. A 5 star collection.

I’ve really enjoyed some of Sarah Crossan’s YA novels written in verse and this was her first adult novel. While it passed quickly this wasn’t the right book for me. The novel follows a woman who is having an affair and her boyfriend dies, leaving her in secret grief. I think this just wasn’t my kind of novel but I can see others liking it. A 3 star read for me.

Dear NHS 100 Stories To Say Thank You – edited by Adam Kay is incredible. Written and put together through lockdown proceeds also go towards supporting the NHS and the incredible people who care for us. Celebrities from all walks of life have contributed Emilia Clarke, Jacqueline Wilson, Sir Trevor McDonald, Jack Whitehall and so many more. After I finished I went and bought a copy for my Nanna to read too. An incredible book, 5 stars. I’d give it 50 if I could.

Music From Another World by Robin Talley was sent to me in exchange for a review. Set in the USA in the 1970s, two teenagers become penpals through a school project, but they end up getting much more from it. Dealing with homophobia in the 70s, religion and what the changes around them meant for the future. I really enjoyed this book and loved both the main characters, I also highly recommend the audiobook.

I got a copy of The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed from the publisher via Netgalley. While I was excited by it, after reading I realised it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get on with the protagonist and actually found her sister to be much more interesting. 3 stars for me.

I’m a big fan of Alice Oseman’s writing and Loveless was one I was really excited for this year – it didn’t disappoint. Set during Georgia’s first term at university not only is she trying to adapt to her new surroundings but also that she just doesn’t seem to get relationships or love. As she learns about terms such as Asexual and Aromantic she’s got even more to work out, while also trying to keep her friendships together. A 5 star read for me!

Little Moments of Love is an flick though of cute moments from Catana Comics. I enjoyed it, a 3 star read for me.

August

The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown is a heartbreaking and also wonderful sapphic novel that I am so glad I got for myself. It deals with grief, healing and anger. Put simply I found it to be as beautiful as the cover suggests. A big 5 stars and one that is not shouted about enough!

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang is one I’ve eyed for a while. A graphic novel about a gamer who realises that things might not be what they seem. A really well written and illustrated story of friendship, understanding and poverty – 4 stars from me.

I am so late to the party with theses I know! I have to say though Holly Jackson is a bit bloody brilliant. Both A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder and Good Girl, Bad Blood had me hooked. I could not put them down for the life of me, I needed to know what happened. I’ll be preordering the third book as soon as I can because these are amazing. Murder, mystery and twists that you won’t see coming – both 5 star reads.

I found All Hail The Queen – Twenty Women Who Ruled by Jennifer Orkia Lewis & Shweta Jha on Scribd and thought it was worth a read. What I enjoyed about this book was that it focused on Queens from around the world throughout history. A quick read full of interesting women – 4 stars.

Another one I finally got to! Spinning by Tillie Walden is a graphic memoir about Tillie’s time ice skating from a child to her teens as she also begins to realise her sexuality. I gave this one 3 stars.

This book came to be at the right time. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is about life, death and possibilities. Not only is is beautifully written but it also makes you consider what’s important and who you are. I’ve been recommending this to everyone because I love it so much. Review to come, 5 stars – go and buy it now and enrich your life.

I’ve read all of Bryony Gordon’s memoirs, so I preordered the audiobook of Glorious Rock Bottom. This one was surprising as it overlaps with some of the others in a way that I didn’t expect. Bryony bares all about her alcoholism and trying to get clean, including things that she isn’t proud of but she does share her reality. She also acknowledges her privilege that she can pay to go to rehab. A solid 4 star read.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash kept popping up on lists about graphic memoirs (something I’ve liked reading recently). This is about a Mormon teenager at summer camp who is working out her sexuality. While I could appreciate the story I wasn’t keen on the art style. A 3 star read for me.

I adore the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman and so I wanted to pick up this short story she wrote about the main characters Nick and Charlie. This does have spoilers if you only read the bound editions (although if you’re up to speed then I wouldn’t say there are too many spoilers). That said it was a really sweet quick read that I loved. 5 stars

I got an ARC of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab via Netgalley and I squealed. This is one of my most anticipated reads of the year and this book. This book! Oh it’s something special. It comes out next month and I can’t WAIT to share my review with you all soon. 5 stars, obviously.

What have you been reading? Let me know below!

Celebrating Birthdays In A Long Distance Relationship

Celebrating Birthdays In A Long Distance Relationship

On your birthday you want to celebrate with the people who love you most, right? But that’s not always possible. My birthday falls in mid September (next week by the way), which is optimal touring time, meaning that it’s very hit or miss whether Ali will be at home. So, I’ve had to adapt to the fact I’m usually not with him for my birthday – but that’s okay!

FaceTime Calls

I get to see Ali’s face when he’s away and while he’s normally not the first text or call when I wake up (I am very OTT when it comes to my birthday and wake up stupidly early) – he makes sure to call me during the day.

If we can’t do that because the internet is shoddy then we’ll have a good catch up call.

Relying on Gifts Arriving On The Doorstep – Or Waiting Until You See Them

Not one for that much forward planning (sorry babe), then presents on the road are a good idea and Amazon Prime is even better. I’ve waited laying on the floor of my parents house because I knew Ali was getting my gift delivered there. It was a speaker and it’s still one of my favourite gifts.

The other option is waiting until we’re together and going to get something, which I actually quite like doing because it’s just nice to spend that time together.

Making Alternative Plans With People You Also Love!

Just because my Fiancé isn’t around doesn’t mean my birthday has to suck. While I don’t enjoy us being apart on any special days, I do have an amazing support network around me.

On the day I normally hang out with my family and see a few friends and then the closest weekend to my birthday I get a load of friends together to go to the pub and they are in charge of me for the night. On my first birthday without Ali at home my friends also made me a hangover kit, which was much appreciated the next day.

Allowing Yourself Time To Feel A Bit Down About It

There will be a moment each and every year where I miss him and I let myself miss him. I’m human and he’s one of my favourite people in the world. Normally this is before I go to sleep, but that’s also ok! I’d be slightly more worried if I didn’t miss him at all.

Making Up For Lost Time When You Can!

My 25th Birthday I had Ali at home and we made the most of it with a trip down to the seaside, some lunch and just time together which was really nice. It might not have been a crazy adventure but it made me so happy.

Have you had a long distance birthday? How did you make it more special? I’d love to know!

Why You Should Join A Book Club

Why You Should Join A Book Club

Last year I did something a little out of my comfort zone

Now, I’ll admit, my first book club I was so nervous. I’d been to one in my town before and it wasn’t great I didn’t gel with most of the people there and as far as I know it didn’t continue. On the day in question I was in the middle of a horrific flare causing me to get the time wrong and turn up half an hour late.

You are literally there to talk about books

Chances are if you’re looking at going to a book club then you like books. I don’t know about you but if you’re a total bookworm like me that alone is a reason to join. No one rolls their eyes when you get super excited about a new release or despair at a lackluster ending.

It’s a great way to meet new friends

I’ve met some of my closest friends in book club. I was already a regular at my local book shop but since joining the club I’ve made best friends that I now don’t know what I’d do without. I also ended up getting a job over Christmas and I only knew about it because of my visits!

You can explore reads you might not have picked up before

Book clubs are meant to show you new books you might not have read. We always vote on a range of books in a kind of knock out round system, the book with the most votes wins.

Thanks to the club, and my friend Maddie, I found a new fantasy series I adore The Mirror Visitor, starting with A Winter’s Promise which is an incredible book that you all need to read!

It gets you out of the house

I’m an introvert, I love nothing more than being left to drink lots of tea and stay in on my sofa in the evenings. Basically, I needed a reason to go out and see other people that didn’t rely on alcohol or spending a lot of money. This was the perfect excuse to get out while not being too out of my comfort zone.

It’s Fun

I have so much fun every month, we have snacks, I get a large cup of tea talk about the book with people. We don’t always stick to the chosen read, it’s perfectly normal for us to go off on a tangent here or there and sometimes I even go to the pub afterwards. It’s a nice feeling.

Are you part of a book club? I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and if you were able to carry on virtually! Let me know!

The Folklore Book Tag

The Folklore Book Tag

I decided that as I’m getting back into regular blogging and posting I’d ease myself in with a fun tag. Like a lot of other people in the bookish community I lost it when I found out that Taylor Swift was dropping a new album.

Now, I’m not going to lie there are definitely more Autumn vibes for me from the album (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking) but nevertheless I saw this tag an knew I had to do it. So let’s get on with it.

The Rules:

  • Link to the original creator: Ilsa A Whisper Of Ink
  • Tag at least 3 people. 
  • Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link to their post.

The Questions:

The 1 – a book with an ending that left you speechless

If you’ve read A Court of Mist and Fury you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s my favourite in the ACOTAR series and seeing as it’s the second book I can’t say too much. I will say I was VERY pleased that the first 3 books were out when I read them because waiting after that ending would have killed me.

Cardigan – a book that makes you feel happy and sad all at once

The Last Great American Dynasty – a book with a fascinating and well-told story

It’s no secret on this blog that I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I was completely and utterly absorbed by this story and the audiobook, I was listening to it constantly.

It’s just an amazingly well written story and I was surprised by the ending which doesn’t happen often!

Exile – a book you wish you hadn’t read

A controversial opinion but Clean by Juno Dawson irritated me. I generally struggle reading about people who are rich and spoilt who can just go to rehab. I didn’t enjoy it and I found the main character annoying.

My Tears Ricochet – a book that made you cry uncontrollably 
Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

I wouldn’t say cried uncontrollably but I definitely cried while reading Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. I picked it up at YALC a while ago not knowing much about it and it was an emotional read guys. I expected it to be a challenge but I cried.

Mirrorball – a book that feels like it was written just for you

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath spoke to my soul while I was at university. A young woman full of potential who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life but doesn’t want to lose her potential. Throw in a mental illness and a desire to be a writer and hello there.

It’s one of my favourite books of all time – it can be a pretty tough read but even now at nearly 26 I still feel like that book is mine in my heart. I also adore Plath’s poetry. She feels so hard through her art and I get it.

Seven – a childhood book that makes you feel nostalgic

Anything by Jacqueline Wilson, in the late 90s and early 2000s she was a Queen in children’s literature (I’ve heard she still is but I haven’t read one in years). I had to read every one of her latest releases as it came out.

August – a book that reminds you of summer

It might be a strange one but the Harry Potter series. I used to reread them during the summer during my holidays while I was growing up.

This Is Me Trying – a book that deals with loneliness & sadness 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour deals with grief as a particular kind of sadness. There isn’t a huge amount of action in the novel but it stirs up feelings and you can understands the sadness and loneliness. I think Nina LaCour is able to write difficult emotions quite well and I love her work.

Illicit Affairs – a book that gave you a book hangover

At the time of writing I read The Meaning of Birds by Jay Robin Brown a few weeks ago and I just can’t get it out of my head. I can’t stop wondering about the main character, what she gets up to after the end of the book. Is she ok? Does do what she wants to do?

Invisible String – a book that came into your life at the exact right time

A new released but The Midnight Library by Matt Haig came to me when I was struggling with my own mental health and struggling to have hope for the future. Even though it can be a sad and difficult read (TW for suicide and death) but it’s one of my favourite books of the year hands down.

Mad Woman – a book with a female character you adore

I’m yet to find someone who hasn’t fallen in love with Nimona. She’s funny, she’s smart and she can basically be whoever she wants to be. I love her.

Epiphany – a book that was haunting

The first book that comes to mind is Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier. I haven’t read it since I was at university but I know there’s a new adaptation coming out which will be interesting. But yeah, literally haunting!

Betty – a book couple that fills you with yearning
Letters on Motherhood

While the thought of being a mother does scare me a little bit reading this book made me strangely calm about it. It made me think ahead to my future, which I hope involves my own kids and hope with all my heart for little people. They don’t exist yet but I already love them.

Peace – a book character you’d die for because you love them so much

This is one that I’ve really struggled to come up with someone for. I think, currently, I can’t say much more than Addie LaRue.

Hoax – a book that you thought you were going to love but didn’t

Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda was such a let down for me. I heard so many good things about it but it just fell flat for me. It wasn’t anything new or different. I know I’m in the minority for this.

I tag anyone who loves Folklore and wants to do this tag! It was such a fun one 

Book Review: Love On The Main Stage -S.A. Domingo

Book Review: Love On The Main Stage – S.A. Domingo

Nova is ready for the summer, to put school and ex’s behind her and get stuck into working the circuit on her family’s food truck. Then she meets Sam a gorgeous American boy with an amazing voice who makes her want to share her own songs…but why does he always have those backstage passes? 

This is a really easy read and also is super sweet without being too cutesy. Nova was an amazing character who stands out well on her own, even without the romance element. Not only is she smart and on top of things such as environmental issues, she also doesn’t take herself too seriously. 

I also absolutely adored the passion for cooking and food that came from Nova’s parents. It was as if I could smell the food, taste how delicious it was and the additional plot line of their challenges and need to win a competition. I was rooting for them the whole way through as well as Nova. 

The relationship between Sam and Nova is very sweet, particularly the stages as they begin to get to know each other. While there is clearly a romantic attachment between them this isn’t what pulled me in. It’s the fact that they can encourage each other, have fun and be teenagers. There was a kindness about their relationship that was lovely to read. 

Domingo clearly has a talent for description, I felt like I was at a festival while reading this novel (something I’ve missed this year). I could hear it, see it, smell it and I had a huge craving for Eats and Beats after I finished, yep I know it’s fictional. 

This is a sweet read and I really enjoyed it. I’d love to know what Nova gets up to after this novel. This was a 4 star read for me. I highly recommend it for those who love music and for those who want a nice chilled read. 

Thank you to the publisher and author for sharing a copy of this with me in exchange for review. 

The Only Goal I Have For The Rest Of 2020

The Only Goal I Have For The Rest Of 2020

Like many of you I started 2020 with some goals. I wanted to get fitter, slim down, get my wedding paid early so I didn’t have to worry about it at the end of the year. I wanted to work on my writing, carry on building my career, so many things.

Well, I don’t know about you but most of those goals went down the toilet from April. We have, collectively, gone through a major trauma as human beings. There aren’t many people who will end this year and go wow, what a great one. 2020 will go down in history…and it’s only August!

Whether you’ve been furloughed, lost your job completely, have been trying to home school or have been working the whole way through all of us have had challenges that we didn’t see coming or couldn’t have planned for. Funnily enough global pandemics which lead to entire countries locking down for months isn’t covered in any training course I’ve been to or exam I’ve ever taken.

A lot of things have also been taken from us they might be big things like not being able to attend the funeral of a loved one, missing out on meeting a newborn who you’ve loved since you found out they existed. It might have been something smaller – being able to hug your loved ones (this one I really struggled with) or going for a coffee with friends without anxiety taking over.

I’ve made no secret of the fact I’ve struggled a lot with my mental health, sometimes it feels as if I’ve got over one hurdle only to slip and fall at the next. It’s not a nice feeling. For me, personally, I’m sad about the big and the small things – I couldn’t take my sister with me to pick up my wedding dress, we’re wondering if the wedding we planned will happen, we’re moving at the end of the year as a result of the pandemic. It’s a lot, it really, really is.

I know I’m in a fortunate position. There are family and friends around me who are supporting in any way they can, we’ve managed to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. That said something has to give – which means I only have one goal, one expectation of myself for 2020.

To get through it.

After everything, for all of us, that has to be enough. So I am giving anyone reading this the nudge to let go of what you thought 2020 was going to be about. It’s not easy, I know, I’m awful at letting things go but we should normalise it.

One day, one hour, one minute at a time if you need to.

Just keep going.

Enjoying Writing Again

Enjoying Writing Again

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll have noticed I didn’t post much in July…in fact I only posted 3 times. I got to a point where I felt like the blog was another pressure in my life, another thing I needed to do and that’s not what this blog is about.

My blog has always just been a place where I can write, get ideas down and create something that I’m proud of. So when it stopped being fun I took a step back. For me, there was never a question of me getting back to it but I didn’t know when. I thought maybe I’d take until September because I was just so overwhelmed and struggling with my mental health.

That is until today, when I could feel my fingers itching to get to the keyboard and write about things. I could feel ideas for posts forming in my brain without it feeling like a colossal effort. Despite the fact I’m absolutely exhausted today (gym workout felt great yesterday, less so today) I wanted to write again. Yippie!

So, I’m not planning on putting pressure on myself to post a certain number of times a week at the moment, or on the views because, really does it matter? I blog mostly for me, to write, to get better at my craft etc. I don’t rely on this blog for my income, it’s not something I have to do so I’m going to get back to writing what I want again…I hope you enjoy it!

It’s good to be back.

Heading To The Aisle: 6 Months To Go & Planning During A Pandemic

Heading To The Aisle: 6 Months To Go & Planning During A Pandemic

Today marks 6 months until my wedding day! After being together for 12 years and being engaged for over a year getting to the 6 month mark is exciting!

So, where are we at? Luckily I booked a lot before we went into lockdown in March. I still have a fair bit to sort flowers, suits for the men, food options etc. People have asked me if it’s still going ahead, while I’m anxious about what will happen in January we’re planning as if everything is going ahead.

During the lockdown and covid I have felt a little disheartened. There are things that I always thought would be part of my countdown experience that I won’t get. In light of everything going on in the world they seem so small and insignificant but I won’t get them back.

I planned to take my sister to pick up my dress with me as she couldn’t go when I tried them on, possibly my Nanna too. I’m only allowed one person to go and pick up my dress next month (yes, it’s 4 months earlier than we anticipated!) which is my Mum. So there’s a little bit of bittersweet there as well.

Unlike most people, I also had a few different Hen Do celebrations planned. A trip to Disneyland Paris with my Mum, Sister and one of my best friends has been postponed to after the wedding. My big Hen Do that I know nothing about other than the fact it’s in London in October is being planned to go ahead. The final one, a meal with those who couldn’t or didn’t want to come to London is a quiet meal that I hope can still happen.

That said, I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m lucky. There’s still enough time between now and January that it can still go ahead as we planned. I’m trying not to think too much or get too wrapped up in the ‘what ifs’ – it’s bloody hard. I’m sending all the love to brides who have had to postpone.

So, 6 months to go and fingers crossed we’ll be in a much better situation then. If I’m honest the most important part is marrying the man I love. The party part is just a bonus to me. I just want us to be married.