Teaser Tuesday – 2nd January, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

59% All of a sudden we emerged at another station, the first warning, a still-clothed skeleton that caught Lucy’s foot as we passed. The sound of bones clacking against the rail was almost deafening, as was the silence from behind us at the noise. There was no way our pursuers hadn’t heard that, and if they weren’t sure where we were before, they knew now.

BLURB: London, 2123. A century after ebola-bombs decimated the population, PC Sean Weaver of the Combined Police Force is a drone operative tasked with enforcing the Government’s dictatorial rule. Nearly anything and everything is considered Subversive and the people huddle behind ever-watched walls, under threat of forced labour on The Farms for the smallest infraction. Trust is nearly impossible to come by and terrorists could be anywhere. Trapped within this oppressive regime, Sean has to make do with small, secretive acts of rebellion lest he end up on The Farms himself.

Until, that is, the day he witnesses the mass murder of hundreds of civilians. Events quickly spiral out of control, propelling him into a bloody and brutal conflict where he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice. Accept his fate and bury the truth, or fight back and become… Subversive.

I am really enjoying this one. Sean is a great protagonist and Grzegorzek is very good at throwing him into impossible situations against some truly unpleasant antagonists. If you like your dystopian science fiction thriller heaving with action in a worryingly plausible grim world, then this one comes recommended. Review to follow.

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Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – How Did I Do?

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. How well did I do in meeting these targets?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest after receiving excellent advice on how to improve the storyline.
I finally managed to get this rewritten, including a change in the point of view from first person to third person, and sent back during the summer. In the beginning of August, I got another long, detailed email listing the main problem areas where I could further improve it. So far I haven’t managed to get to it – but it is high on my list for early 2018.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I duly tightened up Dying for Space to my satisfaction, but although I had another go at Breathing Space, I’m still not completely happy with the narrative arc and plan to have a drastic pruning session to see if I can smooth out the pacing in the first third of the book, before publishing it in summer 2018.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Elizabeth Wright, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy.
Nope. Didn’t get close to this one as I was tied up with the rewrites of Miranda’s Tempest and later in the year, I also made a drastic change to Running Out of Space and Dying for Space ridiculously close to the publication date which further messed up my writing schedule. So this is another major task that needs to be completed in 2018 if I am to sustain my self-publishing schedule.

• Complete Picky Eaters
And this is another project that didn’t see the light of day and one I intend to get completed during 2018. Apart from anything else, the grandchildren are keen for this one to be published and given my other books aren’t age appropriate, I’d really like to get it out there for them.

• Continue submitting my work
My more professional approach to the submission process paid dividends as in January 2017 I was offered a contract for Netted by Grimbold Publishing. I am thrilled – they are a small outfit, but so passionate about the books they publish. They are like a family, with a strong and continuing interest in the authors they work with and I have huge respect for the quality of the work they release. Netted is due to be published in 2019.

In addition, I was asked to submit a short story to be included in a Grimbold Publishing anthology Holding On By Our Fingertips. I was delighted when ‘A Dire Emergency’ was accepted and will be published alongside a number of excellent writers in the first half of 2018.

• Self publish a novel
And in October, I finally released Running Out of Space. It has garnered a few reviews, all positive and in December I published the sequel, Dying for Space. I am thrilled every time someone drops me a line to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the books. I’m guessing that is an emotion that never gets old.

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
This year I read 175 books and wrote 162 reviews, though not all of them have been published yet. I have now got my act together regarding Netgalley arcs and throughout most of 2017 I have managed to achieve an 80% feedback ratio. In another post, I will further discuss the books I read in 2017. I’m really pleased I have managed to sustain my reading and blogging as I thoroughly enjoy being involved in the lovely #bookbloggers community, discussing books I’ve read and swapping recommendations.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I am delighted that since the merger with Brighton Metropolitan College last year, the Adult Learning Dept at Northbrook has had a new lease of life. My Creative Writing classes this last year have all been successful and well attended. I’m really pleased, because this is the loveliest teaching job on the planet – teaching a subject I love to the nicest bunch of folks you could wish to meet.

• Continue teaching TW
What an amazing year! We were quite daunted at the start of the year as trying to find a suitable syllabus that would be a good fit for Tim’s specific abilities was a major challenge. And once we found the subjects, we then had a battle getting hold of past papers and a suitably extensive teaching programme as despite the fact Tim is fully funded by County, we weren’t formally recognised as an official learning centre. However, it all fell into place in time for Tim to take and pass a couple of music and singing exams, which he passed with flying colours. He also passed his first formal English exam with a very high percentage. And in March we took the decision to film the script he had been working on for the previous three months – and it turned into a whirlwind…

By the end of November, we had all thirteen songs professionally recorded in a studio and the filming completed – with a cast of twenty-three, shot in a variety of locations, including Bognor pier, the museum, a shop and a local college. Tim repeatedly was pushed beyond his comfort zone as he had to respond to a number of deadlines and react to unexpected problems. He is now in the throes of editing it with the help of the videographer and we are hoping it will be ready to be shown at a local cinema sometime in the summer. I still can’t quite believe we managed it…

• Continue to improve my fitness
It was a year of two halves. I was doing so well with this up until the summer, when I was slimmer and stronger than I’ve been for years. But it was a gruelling summer and I was zapped by flu in October – probably because I was very, very tired. It wiped me out for nearly a month. The result was that I only attend my a Fitstep and Pilates class for three sessions last term. You won’t be surprised to hear that the weight has started piling back on and I am finding a number of my favourite clothes are uncomfortably snug. So I need to get back to exercising and hopefully going on walks with my husband.

Overall, it has been probably my most successful year so far, when long hours of sustained work started to pay off. The irony was that Himself was in real trouble with his job and from March through to December, we weren’t sure if he would be able to keep it. Fortunately, the review board found in his favour – but throughout that time, we didn’t know if he would prevail. So in the middle of all these successes, we were busy trying to keep our anxiety on a leash. I’m fervently hoping that 2018 is a kinder year personally and that I fulfil most of my targets I’ve set for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2018, which I will be discussing at the beginning of February.

In the meantime, what about you? Did you set yourself any 2017 challenges and how do you feel they went?

Sunday Post – 31st December 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I didn’t post last week as I simply didn’t get the time to write the post, with my son staying over and my sister also visiting overnight.

Christmas Day was lovely, if quiet, with Himself, my son and my sister joining us in a vegetarian meal of chestnut en croute with all the seasonal trimmings (except the sausagemeat stuffing, of course!). After a scrumptious meal, we opened up our presents and then spent the evening playing Game of Thrones monopoly… never mind about Winter coming – we were vanquished by Rob who ended up bankrupting the lot of us.

We had Boxing Day to slump and generally relax, before J returned to work and the following day, Rob made the journey back to Cambridge. As he is travelling to the States in January, I’m not sure when I’ll see him next, so I was sad to see him go. He always manages to fill the house with life and laughter… In contrast, my poor daughter and her family spent Christmas coping with the norovirus, so had to cancel their visitors – she was due to be cooking for 12 on Christmas Day – and declare their house off-limits. I’m hoping to catch up with the grandchildren tomorrow now that they have recovered.

On Friday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we spent the time reflecting on our 2017 Shoot for the Moon goals, discussing our successes and failures, before setting the crazily ambitious targets for our 2018 Shoot for the Moon Challenge. Today I’m going to be busy organising our meal when we’ll be joined by the grandchildren who will spend New Year’s Eve with us, which is a lovely treat as I haven’t seen them since the first week in December.

This week I have read:

Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly
Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar.

This was a dark-edged, surprisingly gritty read that I really enjoyed. Emmeline is a fascinating protagonist who spends her time listening to conversations she isn’t supposed to hear and playing tricks on the servants, who are afraid of her. But when everything changes, she is forced to go on the run where she meets people who seem to genuinely like her – and suddenly the things she used to do don’t seem so appropriate.

 

Alien Love Story by A.K. Dawson
Life is a headache for 15-year-old Dan. This isn’t some kind of metaphor. Dan suffers from migraines that make just about everything he does unbearable. Added to that he’s lost almost everyone he cares about. So he feels lonelier than the last puppy in a pet shop. But one day he sees a mysterious girl digging in the rubbish bins behind his house. Just by being near her, he finds that all his pain goes away. So he wants to see her again, of course. And get to know her. But she’s a bit strange. And her big eyes make her look, well, like an alien. Does she really exist? Or is she just a figment of an overactive, under-loved imagination?

This one started really strongly, but I was a bit taken aback at the sexual content in a book I thought initially was aimed at the tween/young teen market. There were some enjoyable scenes and I found Dan mostly likeable, though the relentless non-stop pace and Dan’s rather manic efforts to get closer to this girl had me wondering whether it was supposed to be a farce or a romance.

 

Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

It’s been far too long since I read the third book in this entertaining space opera series, so I was delighted to be able to tuck into this next slice of the adventure. Sirantha Jax is every bit as enjoyable as I recalled, while facing some daunting odds – I won’t be leaving it so long before tracking down the next book, Aftermath.

 

My posts last week:

Christmas Quiz 2017

Teaser Tuesday featuring Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
AND
The Daily Waffle features an extract from Dying for Space where Elizabeth is out of her comfort zone…

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson
AND
A Bohemian Mind At Work features Dying for Space

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Frequency of Aliens – Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette
AND
Just Books features an extract from Dying for Space as well as an article by yours truly about a very awkward conversation I had that led to my changing the setting of the Sunblinded trilogy just days before I released Running Out of Space
AND
Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…
AND
Comfy Chair Books has posted another slice of Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is finding it difficult to cope at one of her father’s fancy banquets – who can she trust? In addition, there is an article about how I used food and dining as part of the worldbuilding in this book.

Friday Face-off – If music be the food of love, play on – featuring The Future Falls – Book 3 of the Enchantment Emporium series by Tanya Huff
AND
La libreria di Beppe is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

Review of Year One – Book 1 of the Chronicles of The One by Nora Roberts
AND
The HufflepuffNerdette features an excerpt from Dying for Space, in addition to an article by me, listing my top ten favourite space heroines

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Philippe Curval’s 1950s Photo Collages, Part 1
https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2017/12/27/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-philippe-curvals-1950s-photo-collages-part-i/ These are extraordinary and beautiful – do swing by and take a look…

This #NewYear Visit Old #Fiction To Renew Your #WritingLife https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/12/28/this-newyear-visit-old-fiction-to-renew-your-writing-life/ Jean always tells it like it is – and this is an insight into how she rediscovered a piece of work, sent it off and… read it. It’s worth it.

The Secret of Great Memoir: The Mature Self https://www.janefriedman.com/memoir-mature-self/ This excellent article gives some solid tips on how to convey deep emotion without getting caught up in the spray and flotsam

10 of the Best Poems about Walking https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/27/10-of-the-best-poems-about-walking/ As we brave the stormy weather for a breath of fresh air during this seasonal holiday, here are some offerings from some poets on this most fundamental form of exercise.

Christmas Alphabet: T for Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/15/christmas-alphabet-t-for-tom-waits-christmas-card-from-a-hooker-in-minneapolis/ Thom spins tales when he tells us factoids about some of his favourite songs, providing shafts of poetry in his writing as he conveys his love and passion for the music he features…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site. May you have a peaceful, healthy and successful 2018. And if, sadly, those aren’t options for you, may you have the courage and strength to prevail. Happy New Year.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Year One – Book 1 of the Chronicles of The One by Nora Roberts

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I’d seen this one around, before reading the glowing review by The Tattooed Book Geek which encouraged me to get hold of it. Would I enjoy it too?

It began on New Year’s Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

My first piece of advice would be to avoid reading the rest of the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more plot than necessary. That said, this one doesn’t hang about, though the first section is grim as the world we know and enjoy falls apart. Amongst the swathe of characters that we meet only to watch them die, are a handful that keep going despite the odds. While Roberts doesn’t indulge in any gratuitous violence, there are inevitably some scenes where horrible things happen and as has been noted in other reviews, she doesn’t flinch from those events, either.

I particularly enjoyed the twist where a proportion of the survivors find they have a magical ability awakening. Max and Lana both have this ability and though Max has possessed a magical talent before the Doom strikes, his power becomes stronger. The storyline involving these two is the engine that powers the narrative arc forward as they are essentially the principle protagonists, although there are a few other characters in a supporting role. There is a price to pay – normal survivors are starting to turn on the Uncanny, as they are termed, and not without reason. Though there are many like Max and Lana who use their powers only to defend themselves and help others, there are others whose magical abilities are far darker. And without any law and order, they are running amok.

As might be expected by a storyteller with Roberts’ experience, the pacing and narrative are ably handled – I had more or less expected certain events to unspool in a particular way. But just when I was settling into the rhythm of what I thought would happen – Roberts throws a massive wrench into the story and it suddenly takes a left turn into a very different direction that left me scrambling to catch up – I love it when that happens. The ending is strong with Roberts tying up all the plotlines so the story arc has a satisfying conclusion, yet leaving a couple of dangling plot points waving in the wind so we want to return to discover what happens next. Which I certainly want to do as this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
9/10

 

ANNDDD…

The HufflepuffNerdette features an excerpt from Dying for Space and an article from me on my favourite space opera heroines

Friday Faceoff – If music be the food of love, play on

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a musical instrument, so I’ve selected a real gem – The Future Falls – Book 3 of The Enchantment Emporium series by Tanya Huff.

 

This cover, produced by Titan Books in November 2014 seems to be the default cover. I like it well enough – it’s classy with the gold on red. But it gives little hint of the naughty, sharp-edged fantasy story that lurks behind those thick red curtains…

 

This edition was produced by Daw in November 2014 and I far prefer it as it gives an idea of the story. Both the dragon and the musician feature heavily in the adventure and I think particularly like the fact we get to see only bits of the dragon – but what we do see lets us know that he is magnificent. There are only the two choices this week – which one is your favourite?

ANNDDD…

La libreria di Beppe is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Frequency of Aliens Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

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I really liked the cool cover and the blurb which sounds sharp and funny, if a tad chatty. I’ve only included part of it…

Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward. Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

I found this one difficult to put down once I got used to the narrative. The story is pacey and due to the humour, feels quite different from, say, Fade Out, which I have also recently read and reviewed. This could so easily have been a grim tale of humanity facing a possible apocalyptic threat and while events are stacking up and there is a definite sense of unease, at no stage did the tone alter. I found it quite refreshing.

However, the catch with using any form of omniscient viewpoint – where the narrator is driving the story forward instead of the main characters – is the narrative can tip into being a mouthpiece for the author. So as I read on, I became aware that Doucette isn’t a fan of the military mindset, while feeling protectively admiring of isolated, rural settlements like Sorrow Falls.
Is this a major problem? It certainly wasn’t for hundreds of years, or for the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. However the current fashion is for our protagonists to tell the story from their viewpoints within the story, on the grounds that no one has an overarching, ultimate view of what is happening – and that is exactly what is going on throughout this book. If Doucette wasn’t so deft with his humour, I think I would have had more of a problem with the viewpoint but because his wry irreverence permeates the story, he manages to pull this one off.

Other than that, the writing is slick and effective, while he keeps the pace rolling forward. All the main characters were reasonably appealing, although I did find the bloodthirsty survivalists a little unnerving and wondered if Doucette is playing too much with stereotypes in his characterisations. However, the denouement and ending was well handled and I enjoyed reading this sufficiently that I will be looking out for the first book in the series, The Space Ship Next Door.

8/10

 

ANNDDD…

Just Books features an extract from Dying for Space as well as an article by yours truly about a very awkward conversation I had that led to my changing the setting of the Sunblinded trilogy just days before I released Running Out of Space.

Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…

Comfy Chair Books has posted another slice of Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is finding herself right out of her comfort zone at one of her father’s fancy banquets. In addition, there is an article about how I used food and dining as part of the worldbuilding in this book.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th December, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson

#young adult/children’s #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…

This sounds like a mash-up where Terminator meets Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. To be honest, it was the sheer weirdness of the blurb that had me requesting the arc of this offering – that and the fabulous cover. As well as the fact that the authors clearly know their history – Ada Lovelace, notable mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron and Luring, which sounds very similar to Alan Turing, genius and credited with breaking the crucial code that helped to bring WWII to an end. I like those kinds of word associations and appreciate it when authors play those types of games. I’m looking forward to tucking into this offering in due course…

 

ANNDDD…

 

A Bohemian Mind at Work is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

Teaser Tuesday – 26th December, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
2% Unfortunately, the rush is fleeting, and I need to carry us safely through. I focus on the beacons; they pulse as if in answer to my command. Here, I feel powerful, damn near invincible, however much a lie that proves to be. Jumpers almost never die old and grey.

BLURB: Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

I had some vouchers so treated myself to continuing to read this excellent series. As you can see, I’m right at the start – but so far it’s sounding very promising…

 

ANNDDD…

The Daily Waffle features an excerpt from Dying for Space where Elizabeth is waaay out of her comfort zone…

Christmas Quiz 2017

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Christmas candles @ mum’s-2

When Gran was alive, during our family gatherings we used to play Christmas games. Gran particularly loved general knowledge quizzes, but with 5 generations ranging from the late nineties down to a three year old, it posed something of a challenge. So each year I devised multiple choice questions and everyone played in pairs, which gave even the youngest a chance of answering correctly. Gran is no longer with us, but if you happen to gather in a multi-generational mash-up to celebrate Christmas perhaps this will pass some time between opening presents and tucking into the seasonal feast.

1. What is another name for the alligator pear?
a) Kumquat                b) Avocado
c) Boysenberry          d) Pineapple

2. What did Marylebone, Ranleigh and Vauxhall have in common in the 18th century?
a) All were land owned by aristocratic families
b) All had churches on them
c) All were pleasure gardens
d) All were sites of gibbets for public hangings

3. Who taught Alice to dance the Lobster Quadrille?
a) The Lobster          b) The Walrus
c) The Carpenter      d) The Mock Turtle

4. Die/dice, man/men are examples of irregular plurals in English. Just how many of them are there?
a) 7                             b) 10
c) 13                           d) 18

5. Who is the heir apparent to the British throne?
a) Prince William    b) Prince Andrew
c) Prince Charles     c) Princess Anne

6. On which day did God make the sun, the moon and the stars?
a) The second day    b) The third day
c) The fourth day     d) The fifth day

7. Which artist expressed a wish to eat his wife when she died?
a) Pablo Picasso       b) Paul Gauguin
c) Paul Cézanne       d) Salvador Dali

8. What is blennophobia?
a) Fear of the colour white       b) Fear of slime
c) Fear of ice                                d) Fear of silence

9. Quarantine is isolation because of sickness. What else can it be?
a) A forty-day study sabbatical available to university dons
b) A small island in the Pacific, named by James Cooke
c) The name of the flag, warning of infection aboard, flown by the Royal Navy
d) A sort of red apple

10. Who cut off Samson’s hair?
a) Delilah                   b) Salome
c) Jezebel                   d) Naomi

11. Linnaeus gave the name “food of the gods” to which drink?
a) Brandy                   b) Coffee
c) Chocolate              d) Wine

12. Over how many days is the decathlon held?
a) 10                            b) 5
c) 4                              d) 2

13. Who claimed to be able to recognize 140 different forms of tobacco ash?
a) Dr. Watson                  b) Sherlock Holmes
c) Lord Peter Whimsey  d) Hercule Poirot

14. What is a group of swine called?
a) Herd                      b) Sounder
c) Drift                       d) Wallow

15. What does the name Thermopylae, the site of a famous battle, actually mean?
a) Hot waters           b) Red bush
c) Hot gates              d) Place of the Geysers

16. How many lines are there in a limerick?
a) 3                             b) 4
c) 5                             d) 14

17. Whose best friend is Barney Rubble?
a) Mickey Mouse     b) Buzz Lightyear
c) Scooby Doo          d) Fred Flintstone

18. How did the tank get its name?
a) When Lord Kitchener described it as looking “like a damnable tank.”
b) It is acronym for Terrestrial Automotive Navigable Kinesthesmobile
c) For security reasons they were sent to France in crates labelled WATER TANKS
d) It was a nickname coined by the troops that stuck

19. What is the value of the gold spot in the centre of an archery target?
a) 5                              b) 9
c) 10                            d) 25

20. What is added to gin and vermouth to make a drink called a Gibson?
a) Strawberry            b) Orange
c) Onion                     d) Cucumber

ANSWERS

1. What is another name for the alligator pear?
a) Kumquat              b) Avocado
c) Boysenberry         d) Pineapple

2. What did Marylebone, Ranleigh and Vauxhall have in common in the 18th century?
a) All were land owned by aristocratic families
b) All had churches on them
c) All were pleasure gardens
d) All were sites of gibbets for public hangings

3. Who taught Alice to dance the Lobster Quadrille?
a) The Lobster        b) The Walrus
c) The Carpenter    d) The Mock Turtle

4. Die/dice, man/men are examples of irregular plurals in English. Just how many of them are there?
a) 7                            b) 10
c) 13                          d) 18

5. Who is the heir apparent to the British throne?
a) Prince William   b) Prince Andrew
c) Prince Charles    d) Princess Anne

6. On which day did God make the sun, the moon and the stars?
a) The second day   b) The third day
c) The fourth day     d) The fifth day

7. Which artist expressed a wish to eat his wife when she died?
a) Pablo Picasso        b) Paul Gauguin
c) Paul Cézanne        d) Salvador Dali

8. What is blennophobia?
a) Fear of the colour white b) Fear of slime
c) Fear of ice                         d) Fear of silence

9. Quarantine is isolation because of sickness. What else can it be?
a) A forty-day study sabbatical available to university dons
b) A small island in the Pacific, named by James Cooke
c) The name of the flag, warning of infection aboard, flown by the Royal Navy
d) A sort of red apple

10. Who cut off Samson’s hair?
a) Delilah                 b) Salome
c) Jezebel                 d) Naomi

11. Linnaeus gave the name “food of the gods” to which drink?
a) Brandy                 b) Coffee
c) Chocolate            d) Wine

12. Over how many days is the decathlon held?
a) 10                           b) 5
c) 4                             d) 2

13. Who claimed to be able to recognize 140 different forms of tobacco ash?
a) Dr. Watson                  b) Sherlock Holmes
c) Lord Peter Whimsey d) Hercule Poirot

14. What is a group of swine called?
a) Herd                     b) Sounder
c) Drift                      d) Wallow

15. What does the name Thermopylae, the site of a famous battle, actually mean?
a) Hot waters           b) Red bush
c) Hot gates              d) Place of the Geysers

16. How many lines are there in a limerick?
a) 3                              b) 4
c) 5                              d) 14

17. Whose best friend is Barney Rubble?
a) Mickey Mouse      b) Buzz Lightyear
c) Scooby Doo           d) Fred Flintstone

18. How did the tank get its name?
a. When Lord Kitchener described it as looking “like a damnable tank.”
b. It is acronym for Terrestrial Automotive Navigable Kinesthesmobile
c. For security reasons they were sent to France in crates labelled WATER TANKS
d. It was a nickname coined by the troops that stuck

19. What is the value of the gold spot in the centre of an archery target?
a) 5                              b) 9
c) 10                            d) 25

20. What is added to gin and vermouth to make a drink called a Gibson?
a) Strawberry            b) Orange
c) Onion                     d) Cucumber

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a healthy, successful 2018.

Review of Blue Shift – Book 1 of the Second Species series by Jane O’Reilly

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I picked this one up in Waterstones while spending some book tokens, beguiled by the helmeted girl on the cover.

The Earth is cold, dead and divided. The rich hide away from reality while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: reaching a habitable planet. But getting there means travelling in large numbers through alien-held space, something that’s politically nearly impossible. Yet for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . .

Jinnifer Blue is a rich girl on the run. An expert pilot, she apprehends criminals on behalf of the government and keeps her illegal genetic modifications a closely guarded secret. But when a particularly dangerous job goes south, leaving her stranded on a prison ship with one of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy, Jinn realises that the rich and the powerful are hiding more than she’d ever guessed. Now she must decide if she can trust her co-prisoner – because once they discover what the prison ship is hiding, she definitely can’t trust anyone else . . .

I really like the premise that as Earth is increasingly inhabitable, humanity now has no choice but to head for the stars – only the aliens surrounding us aren’t all that impressed. Though some species have specific uses for some of us – and not in a good way… However I do feel O’Reilly missed a bit of a trick, here. Given the desperate straits Earth is in, the decisions taken at the highest level could be justifiable if you look at the numbers involved. For me, there was a problem with the antagonist – I just wish she wasn’t so unremittingly unpleasant as I think there is a real moral dilemma that O’Reilly has closed down by providing a wholly evil antagonist to represent the hard choice that may need to be made. However, this is the first book in the series and perhaps this aspect of the story is more thoroughly explored in the sequel – I do hope so.

I enjoyed Jinn, who is an appealing protagonist with a tricky past. This gives her edges and a certain toughness, which I liked. I found the grimness of an existence where everyone has to work to pay off their modifications nicely realistic, given it is clearly capitalism that has powered humanity’s existence in space. O’Reilly writes action well, although I did find a couple of the jumps in narrative time at the start of the book a little jarring and wondered whether it would have been more satisfactory if we had started the book in 2207, leaving the main characters to fill in what happened twenty years earlier.

However, once the book got going, I stayed up way later than I’d intended to discover what happens next – O’Reilly is certainly good at writing a page-turner. There was plenty of action, alongside the political manoeuvring and this detailed world was effectively depicted without loss of pace. The romance worked well, helping to power the story along although it wasn’t the main element. Do be warned, though, there are a couple of explicit sex scenes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I’m hoping to be able to get hold of the second book when it comes out as this dark, difficult problem facing Earth and its hapless inhabitants has got me wondering what will happen next… Recommended for fans of character-led space opera.
8/10