Tag Archives: family life

Tuesday Treasures – 7 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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I’ve been uploading photos on my Sunday Posts, which have been getting a lot of positive comments, so I have decided to feature the pics in their full size, so you can see some of the detail. This week, I am featuring my outing with my daughter and grandchildren to Swanbourne Lake near Arundel in West Sussex last Wednesday. It was a warm sunny day and very crowded – but we still managed to observe social distancing. Here are some of the photos I took…

Sunday Post – 2nd August, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

The week started off wet, but since midweek we’ve had a series of hot, sunny days again. So on Wednesday, my daughter invited me to join her and the children at Swanbourne Lake in Arundel for a picnic. While it was very busy, everyone was mindful and socially distancing, which was good to see. We had lunch right by a wild flower meadow, watching butterflies and grasshoppers, which was a treat. We then walked around the lake at little Eliza’s pace until she got tired enough to return to her pushchair and rounded off the outing with an ice cream treat. Lovely! The pics this week are from Swanbourne Lake.

On Thursday, Himself and I needed to shop in town – and afterwards visited our first café for a cup of tea and piece of cake since lockdown. There was plenty of space inside as many people were sitting outside and we really appreciated this slight return to normality. I was due to go shopping with my sister, but she woke up yesterday morning in agony with sciatica, so I took my TENS machine over, along with some shopping and by the time I left she was feeling a lot better. I returned home to find Himself rather flustered. A fledgling gull being herded out of the garden, instead hopped into the kitchen and wandered through the ground floor. Luckily Himself managed to manoeuvre it out of the front door! We’ll be glad when the young gulls have got the hang of flying…


Last week I read:
Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron
There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition.

But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last.
I’ve loved this series. Dragons… mages… ghost cat… and a cracking climactic battle that lasts most of the book. Aaron manages to round everything up in a suitably dramatic fashion. Review to follow.


The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.

Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President.
Wow! I’ve loved the previous two books in Elma’s pov, but this last book in the trilogy is just fantastic. Nicole is a fabulous protagonist and the tense cat and mouse thriller this book develops into had me reading into the night. One of my outstandings reads of the year so far. Review to follow.


The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of a Victorian murderess while a baby snatcher threatens modern-day Norfolk in this exciting new entry in a beloved series.
Every year a ceremony is held in Norwich for the bodies in the paupers’ graves: the Service for the Outcast Dead. Ruth has a particular interest in this year’s proceedings. Her recent dig at Norwich Castle turned up the body of the notorious Mother Hook, who was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children. Now Ruth is the reluctant star of the TV series Women Who Kill, working alongside the program’s alluring history expert, Professor Frank Barker.

DCI Harry Nelson is immersed in the case of three children found dead in their home. He is sure that the mother is responsible. Then another child is abducted and a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility. Are there two murderers afoot, or is the Childminder behind all the deaths? The team must race to find out-and the stakes couldn’t be any higher when another child goes missing.
If I’d known in advance this one was all about child abductions, I probably would have given it a miss, but I didn’t realise until I was properly caught up in the story – and by then I was hooked. Still enjoying watching Ruth grow in confidence professionally and as a mother. Mini-review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Book 28 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Maurice and the rats have teamed up with a young lad named Keith to implement a clever moneymaking scheme. Upon entering a town, the rats make a general nuisance of themselves — stealing food and widdling on things — until the townsfolk become desperate to get rid of them. Then Maurice and Keith appear on the scene and offer to save the day by ridding the town of its infestation for a small fee. It seems like a surefire plan until the group arrives in the town of Bad Blintz and gets hooked up with Malicia, a young girl with a vivid imagination and a knack for finding trouble. When it’s discovered that Bad Blintz already has a rat problem — one that a couple of shifty-eyed rat catchers claim to have under control — things turn deadly.
Pratchett’s magic goes on working its charm. There are some hefty themes tackled in this apparently innocuous children’s adventure featuring a talking cat, some talking rats and a not-quite-so-chatty orphan hoping to make his way in the world. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Fire Court – Book 2 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

Friday Face-off featuring Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Tuesday Treasures – 6

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe

Review of Velocity Weapon – Book 1 of The Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe

Sunday Post – 26th July 2020


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

Black Beauties https://cindyknoke.com/2020/07/25/black-beauties/ Cindy’s fabulous pics of some really quirky birds…

How to (Try to) Edit a Book #LikeABoss https://theorangutanlibrarian.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/how-to-try-to-edit-a-book-likeaboss/ I’ve been mired in the thickets of Editing Hell the editing process for what feels like forever. So I read this and howled with laughter – and then howled again in pained recognition…


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books with Red in the Title https://booksbyproxy.wordpress.com/2020/07/28/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-books-with-red-in-the-title/ Isn’t there a lot of them? What about your favourite genre – how many can you come up with?

Mars or Ocean Moons? https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2020/07/30/mars-or-ocean-moons/ ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ A question often asked of authors – and this is an instance where you can see that process in action…

Thursday Doors – Rosepark Farm https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/07/30/thursday-doors-rosepark-farm/ I’m finding plants and flowers such a comfort right now – and here are some stunning examples of the world’s favourite flower if you’re like me…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings #BrainfluffCastellantheBlack #WiseDragonicMusings #LookingAfterGrandchildren #PickyEaters

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Make sure all young dragons perform full abasement when necessary. Make sure it’s always necessary.

Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, or Casta the Grey as he used to be known as, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

Sunday Post – 21st June, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

And finally I’m feeling back to normal, again. No more thick head, sore joints, scratchy throat and the taste of petrol. I also managed to touch base with both children. They are both doing well – I’m so proud of them both for entirely different reasons. My daughter has been thrown SUCH a curved ball and she has been coping brilliantly. While my son is happier than I’ve ever seen him and long may it continue. I just wish he wasn’t quite so far away…

The weeds are taking hold after the rain we’ve had, though we are hoping to get out into the garden in the coming week and get it back under control. The echiums hum with bees and we have lavender in flower and strawberries in the garden… My very favourite time of year!

On the writing front, I have been working on a new space opera adventure, Unearthly Things Above and I am looking forward to Picky Eaters being released tomorrow. Below is a lovely review written by Hayley at Rather Too Fond of Books.

Last week I read:
Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney
At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?
I thoroughly enjoy this cosy mystery series featuring a single father trying to bring up his small daughter in between holding down a job and solving the murders that keep turning up at his university. And this is yet another well-plotted whodunit, with a steady stream of convincing suspects, entertaining characters, and a sympathetic protagonist with secrets of his own… See my reviews of Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
Vish Puri is as fond of butter chicken as the next Punjabi. So when it’s served at the Delhi Durbar hotel at an India Premier League cricket match dinner, he’s the first to tuck in. Faheem Khan, father of Pakistani star cricketer Kamran Khan, can’t resist either. But the creamy dish proves his undoing. After a few mouthfuls, he collapses on the floor, dead…
This series is another firm favourite – I fell in love with this one after reviewing The Case of the Reincarnated Client as a Netgalley arc and was so impressed that I went out and bought the rest of the series. I’m now working my way through it and loving the vivid Indian setting, which is beautifully evoked by Hall’s wonderful writing.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate – NOVELLA by Becky Chambers
In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves. Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does. Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.
I loved this one. It takes great technical skill to successfully write a novella – and Chambers nails it. I finished this one with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and whatever you do, please read the Afterword – because there you find the reason for that striking title… See my reviews of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit.

The Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman
THE REBEL.
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.
THE RUTHLESS.
In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their rule to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange ad savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.
AND THE RETURNED…
Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows its secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.
THE WILD HAS BEGUN TO RISE.
I loved The Deathlesssee my review. So when I was reminded of this series, I tracked down this second book, which had all the taut tension and atmospheric worldbuilding of the first book, with a cast of vivid characters and a suitably twisty plot. As it left everything on a cliffhanger, I’m relieved that the third book is being released in August.


My posts last week:


Review of Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik

Friday Face-off featuring The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Book Character Quarantine Tag

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven by Pat Esden

Review of NETGALLEY arc Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristell Comby

Sunday Post – 14th June 2020



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

A Summary and Analysis of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
https://interestingliterature.com/2020/06/shakespeare-midsummer-nights-dream-summary-analysis/ One of my favourite Shakespeare plays – along with The Tempest…

When You Want to Help Someone: What Helps, What Doesn’t https://mrsozzie.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/when-you-want-to-help-someone-what-helps-what-doesnt/ The hard fact is that in these times, we are more likely to encounter someone in serious trouble. And often we are unprepared and don’t really know what to say or do for the best. This helpful article provides great advice…

Regarding Privilege, Empathy and Voice https://writerunboxed.com/2020/06/15/regarding-privilege-empathy-and-voice/ As I’ve said before – I don’t generally get involved in politics on this blog. But this article written by a white, middle-aged man on what is going on right now has some important things to say for those of us who desperately want to do something to help things change, but because of our colour and privilege, we don’t quite know how or what. I also recommend you read the comments…

Rose Garden Haiku https://mythsofthemirror.com/2020/06/11/chaos/ Diana also turns to her garden when she finds the world too hard to take – but in addition to taking photos, she writes beautiful poetry, too…

Book review: Picky Eaters by S.J. Higbee @sjhigbee https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2020/06/19/picky-eaters-s-j-higbee/ This is a lovely review by Hayley for my short story Picky Eaters, which is due to be released tomorrow… All proceeds are going mental health charities for the duration of this book’s publication life.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Sunday Post – 7th June, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

Apologies for the grotty appearance of this post. Unless I pay £147 a year, I can no longer use WordPress Classic editor. I am exploring other options, as having to struggle to this degree to get even this unsatisfactory result isn’t feasible – I’ve better things to do with my time…

We’re now into flaming June and our summer weather has abruptly departed. I would be happy to report that we’ve got rain – we haven’t. Gale force winds are savaging the garden and drying it out still further. Oh well.

It has been a busy week as I have been getting Picky Eaters ready to see the light of day – and I’m thrilled at the wonderful cover my mate Mhairi Simpson has produced. Many thanks to her for donating her time to this project. Other than that, more editing and working on Mantivore Warrior. Tonight there is another Zoom family gamesnight which we’re looking forward to joining – hopefully I won’t be smitten with another headache!

Last week I read:

The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso
The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall Ryx, bringing far too much unwanted attention to this small, but strategically vital country – all centred on an ominous ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle…
I loved the Swords and Fire series – see my review of The Defiant Mage and found the unfolding situation at the start of this gripping tale immediately pulled me into the story. A great start to this spinoff series.

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne
Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop. As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students.
This was great fun – though there were various plot holes large enough to haul a grizzly through, it was well narrated and I really liked Theo Cray, so was happy to go along for the ride.

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby
PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…
This was an intriguing dynamic, where poor old Bell finds himself indentured to Lady McDeath, who sends him to sort out the most dangerous and messy tasks popping up around Cold City. I’m glad I have the second book on my Kindle, ready to read when I get the time. Review to follow.

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.
Yet another quirky paranormal murder mystery – it’s been something of a theme this week – I enjoyed this addition to this entertaining series and will be reviewing it in due course.


My posts last week:

PICKY EATERS – Cover reveal

Friday Face-off featuring Searching for Dragons – Book 2 of the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL * Review of The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of The Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Sunday Post – 31st May 2020


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

Tips to Photograph Bees https://wanderingambivert.com/2020/06/03/tips-to-photograph-bees/ Given that a lot of us are still in lockdown, wandering around the garden, or going for walks might give you the opportunity to take a pic of bees, here is some advice on how to do it well…

A Teacher’s Story #1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/06/03/a-teachers-story-1/ What an inspirational tale…

Talking with Kids about Racism https://platformnumber4.com/2020/05/30/talking-with-kids-about-racism/ Many thanks to Becky for posting this really useful resource. I very highly recommend the article ‘What White Children Need to Know About Race’…

The Last Video Store on Earth https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2020/06/04/guest-post-the-last-video-store-on-earth/ I loved this article…

Kvetch – 22 https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2020/06/03/kvetch-22/ And if you’re in need of a laugh, or two…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

PICKY EATERS – Cover reveal #PickyEatersShortStory #PickyEaters4thebattleagainstmentalillness #PickyEaterscoverreveal

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I have mentioned several times over the last couple of months that I was working on another project – and today I am in a position to finally talk about it. As lockdown clamped across my life, along with everyone else, I wanted to do something to help. But what? My own health issues and age meant I wasn’t in a position to volunteer for the variety of important jobs needing to be done. And given my sewing skills, or lack of them, no one would want to wear scrubs or masks made by yours truly. All I do these days is write…

So I went back through my stories, searching for this one. The story of a grumpy old grandfather, who is suddenly faced with looking after a couple of lively young dragonets… It had been published as a 1,000 story in Every Day Fiction way back in 2008, but I added more, as this family wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s humorous and quirky and as far away from the current difficult situation as you can get – a quick, easy read for folks, who perhaps like me, aren’t looking for anything too demanding or downbeat right now.

I’m planning on publishing Picky Eaters – Part I on 22nd June and for the duration of its publishing lifetime, I am donating all proceeds to mental health charities. So I’m hoping the story itself will provide a bit of escapist entertainment, while the profits will also go to a cause that I know is in desperate need of more resources. Mhairi Simpson, my book buddy and awesome cover artist has also donated her time and work on this cover for nothing, as her contribution towards this project.

In the meantime, advance reader copies of this story are available at Booksprout – this is the link – for the first 20 reviewers interested in reading about the exploits of Castellan and those lively dragonets, Sammy Jo and Billy Bob.

BLURB: This tale about family life, dragon-style, is escapist fun for adults. All proceeds to go to mental health charities.

Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?

Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.

Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.

Sneak peek…
He came to with a sudden awareness that he must have dozed off, which was happening more often these days. Still, no harm done… He stretched and yawned, choosing to ignore the patter of dirt falling from his crusted scales. Only as he started to curl up, ready to turn the nap into a proper mid-morning snooze, did he recall he was supposed to be babysitting his pesky grandchildren. Where’d they got to?
Once he located the youngsters huddled in the corner, he decided Billy Bob and Sammy Jo were up to something, so he tip-taloned across the cavern, before whispering, “What are you doing?” in Billy Bob’s ear.
The small dragon shot straight into the air with a shrill squeal, while his sister crouched lower over whatever-it-was in the gloom, gobbling it up in a couple of hurried gulps.
An irritated wisp of smoke leaked from his nostrils. “And why are you eating between meals?”
“’Um unngree…” she mumbled, still chewing.
The delicious whiff of a meaty something didn’t improve his temper. “If you’d eaten all your breakfast, you wouldn’t be wanting something, now!”
“Sorry, Granddad,” Billy Bob whimpered, his wings drooping submissively.
But young Sammy Jo was made of sterner stuff. Her wings remained neatly folded across her back as she announced, “Didn’t like breakfast.”
Impudent little piece! Why, when he was a dragonet, if he’d spoken to a lord so insolently, he’d have been walking around with singed scales for a month. Smoke now was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as he growled, “And what does like have to do with anything? Answer that one, miss! There’s sub-Saharan dragons who’d give their wings for a tasty morsel like the one I picked out for you.”
“They can have it, then,” Sammy Jo said sulkily. “It tasted funny.”
The rank ingratitude! His temper flared, and a gout of flame belched out of his mouth with his roar, “Ahh!”
She dodged his fiery blast with ease. “You can’t singe us, Granddad. It’s not allowed.” Sammy Jo stretched her neck in an unmistakeably female way. “If we’ve been bad, we have to sit on the naughty crag and think about what we’ve done wrong and how to make a-mends.”
He regarded her with smouldering annoyance. “You sound just like your grandmother.”





Sunday Post – 17th March, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

This last week has feel more like normality – I am now, finally, feeling more like my old self which is such a relief as I’d begun to feel that I’d never regain my former energy. The Creative Writing sessions all went well and were, as ever, highly enjoyable, though attendance was hit by folks not wanting to battle through Storm Graham on Tuesday afternoon to get to college. Quite right, too.

On Wednesday, my writing buddy Mhairi spent the day with me – we are treasuring our time together, given that she is on the brink of moving to Lincolnshire, instead of just 20 minutes down the road… As ever, lots of talk and mutual advice about writing – I’m delighted that her sales have taken off and as ever, I find her help invaluable. My lesson with Tim on Thursday was a break from preparing for his exam and instead, we worked on the lyrics to his latest song composition, which is amazing.

This weekend, we’ve had the grandchildren to stay, which means that the weather on Saturday was atrocious. Throughout this winter, whenever they’ve come to stay – that’s when the wind and rain has struck. So Oscar and I tucked into a fabulous 3-D sticker book together, while Frances was working on a painting project for homework. I played the Frozen in Time audiobook while we were working. In the mornings, Oscar started the day by reading extracts from the seventh book in Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which he is loving – it’s a real treat listening to him read so fluently. Last night, we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant with my sister to celebrate the start of her new job next year.

Last week I read:
Castaway Planet – Book 4 of the Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor
Lost in the dark, half a year into their journey to the colony world of Tantalus, Sakura Kimei, her family, and her best friend, the alien “Bemmie” nicknamed Whips, are torn from the safety of their colony ship. In a crippled lifeboat, they had one chance to find a habitable world. But even then, they would find that their apparent salvation was a world of a thousand secrets.
I thoroughly enjoyed this futuristic take on Swiss Family Robinson – a real page-turning adventure that gripped me throughout and the added pleasure is the knowledge that I’ve now discovered another cracking sci fi space opera series.

 

The Midnight Queen – Book 1 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter
In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented – and highest born – sons of the kingdom are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover . . .
Gray’s Britain is a fragmented kingdom of many tongues, many gods and many magicks. But all that concerns Gray right now is returning as soon as possible to his studies and setting right the nightmare that has seen him disgraced and banished to his tutor’s home – without a trace of his powers. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
It’s been a wonderful reading week – two cracking reads from authors I hadn’t previously known. I absolutely loved this one – the strong characterisation, tense situation and I was also invested in the romance that bubbled away in the background. I also liked the alternate history where Christianity hadn’t taken hold. Review in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th March 2019

Review of Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Review of Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by R.D. Robb

Friday Face-Off featuring World’s End – Book 1 of the Age of Misrule series by Mark Chadbourn

Review of Dreamer’s Pool – Book 1 of Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier

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

12 Things You Have To Give Up to Be a Successful Writer https://writerunboxed.com/2019/03/16/12-things-you-have-to-give-up-to-be-a-successful-writer/ I love the series of articles written by Bill Ferris – funny and all too near the knuckle…

#writer, your body does not define your #writing voice: a response to the #YA #cancelculture among #readers and #authors https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/03/14/writer-your-body-does-not-define-your-writing-voice-a-response-to-the-ya-cancelculture-among-readers-and-authors/ Jean Lee raises the issues around this current controversary that is causing major concern, given where it is going.

NINTH STEP STATION – Episode 10: The Foreign Mischief by Malka Older & Series Wrap-up http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/03/13/ninth-step-station-episode-10-the-foreign-mischief-by-malka-older-and-series-wrapup/ I generally don’t include reviews in this round-up – so why this one? Because this excellent article is the last in a series following this different way of accessing fiction.

Café del Pintor~ https://cindyknoke.com/2019/03/13/cafe-de-pintor/ Just check out this amazing artwork…

Finding Time for Important Things http://melfka.com/archives/3521 This lovely, well-written article happened to come along at a crucial time for me. I found its message enormously comforting. Thank you Joanna😊

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I still trying to catch up – thank you for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

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 Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

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I enjoyed Kingon’s quirky cosy murder mystery featuring her irrepressible protagonist Molly Marbles in Sherlock Mars – see my review here. So when the author contacted me, offering me the opportunity to read and review the prequel, I jumped at the chance.

It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.

This space opera cosy mystery featuring food tells of how Molly recovers from her initial lost love and rebuilds her life – and about a crime that causes a number of chocolate lovers to fall into a coma. I love the details of the future depicted by Kingon’s breezy writing style – some of it is plainly a bit nonsensical, driven more by the word-play and humour, rather than any real possibility. So it is far more space opera than hard-core science fiction.

There is a large cast in this busy story, where by necessity a chunk of the narrative is told in semi-omniscient point of view. The plots and counter-plots where a number of the characters are trying to outwit each other and gain access to business opportunities or expensive works of art means I had to pay attention. Though I was far more interested in Molly than these nefarious deals, which tends to make the plotting something of a hot mess.

What kept me riveted to Molly’s narrative arc is the fact that she is a hefty lady who loves her food – and in Mars, where children are naturally born much slimmer and taller than Earthborn humans, she attracts a lot of attention, much of it hostile. I have read science fiction stories where the different body shape caused by different gravity drives a racist reaction – but what Kingon has done is to have a population define themselves by their body shape, which impacts on their diet and what they want to eat. In this book, Kingon highlights this consequence mostly as a humorous backdrop to the main action – but I did find this a really interesting aspect. Perhaps the reason why I zeroed onto this issue is because most of my family, including me, are allergic to dairy products, including milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter – and we are also vegetarians. So we also have foods we classify as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

While I found some of the humour and word play not particularly funny, I did really enjoy Molly’s character. Overall, this book isn’t without some structural flaws, but Kingon writes with such sunny energy that pings off the page, I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the originality and quirkiness. Recommended for someone who likes to read something a bit different.
8/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – March Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post here on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During March, I read – um… no books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge. Nope – not a single one. I read plenty of books by women writers throughout March – the catch is that they were writers I’d read previously. So my yearly total of seven books so far is unchanged.

So surely I at least managed to clear a host of books from my TBR pile towards this year’s Tackling My TBR, given my sorry showing in the previous challenge. No… not really – just four – but it was definitely quality over quantity because every single one is a cracking read:

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.
This science fiction whodunit blew me away and is every bit as good as the awesome Planetfall. It starts out as one sort of story and steadily morphed into something else, all the while giving us an insight into what makes Carlos tick. He is entertainingly grumpy about all authority figures – and then… something happens – a gamechanger that had me yelping in horror and unable to put the book down. And as for that ending – wow!

Mira’s Last Dance – Book 4 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series
In this sequel to the novella Penric’s Mission, the injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas. In the town of Sosie the fugitive party encounters unexpected delays, and even more unexpected opportunities and hazards.
Another gem from one of the leading speculative fiction writers of our time. This series is wonderful – Penric has continued to change and develop since as an idealistic young man, he inadvertently acquired a demon he calls Desdemona. This story follows on immediately from Penric’s Mission so my top tip would be to read that one first before plunging into this one. Better still, start at the beginning with Penric and the Demon. Each one doesn’t cost more than a cup of coffee and are worth every penny.

Blood upon the Sand – Book 2 of The Songs of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater.
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy doesn’t suffer from any second book slump after Twelve Kings as we continue to follow Çeda’s fortunes while she seeks a way to get close enough to the kings in order to bring them down. But they are every bit as powerful as myths say they are… This is a compelling world riven with factions and deep, corrosive secrets and I loved it.

My Parents Are Out of Control – Book 2 of the How to Train Your Parents series by Pete
Johnson
Louis doesn’t think much of it when his mum and dad ask him for tips on how to be cool. In fact, he thinks it’s pretty funny watching them bump fists and use words like ‘safe’, ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’. Until Dad turns up outside Louis’s new school dressed like a rapper, that is . . .
Suddenly they’re trying to friend Louis and all his classmates on Facebook, and wearing baseball caps backwards – IN PUBLIC. Louis and his best friend Maddy are horrified. Mum and Dad have taken things too far . . . and immediate action is needed!
After reading the hilarious How To Train Your Parents, it was a no-brainer that I would want to track down this sequel. Unlike many other children’s books, it puts Louis’s interaction with his parents right in the middle of the story. It makes for a funny, often poignant and engrossing tale with some shafts of wisdom about the intergenerational divide and modern family life.

So that is my March roundup. It’s early days in April – and already I’m doing better with the my Discovery Challenge. What about you – are there any challenges you’re undertaking during the year? I’d love to hear about it!