Friday, 31 May 2013

How do you write your blog posts?

I realised earlier today that I could post a lot more on here than I actually do. 

When I take the time to stop and think about it, there have been days where any number of things have caught my attention - news items, something I've come across on Youtube, a song, a memory - and in my head, I'm turning them over, silently chatting to myself and thinking I really must remember to post about this. So what happens? Early evening comes, the boys are in bed, all my jobs are done, and out comes my trusty old laptop and ... it's too late. All those interesting thoughts from earlier in the day are gone. 

*Sigh* All those potential posts wasted.

Probably the biggest obstacle I face when it comes to blogging is that I very rarely have anything to hand on which to scribble my thoughts. At heart, I'm very much a good old fashioned pen and paper kind of gal, but it's hardly convenient and not particularly feasible to carry around a notepad and pen all day. Anyway, in this day and age I should probably be making better use of my smartphone but I'm not a fan of posting from there because I can't seem to format my post so it's consistent with the rest of my blog. 

The second obstacle I face is trying to get out of the mindset that I can only post once in a day. I don't have to choose just one idea to write about - I can write about it all and if I don't want to post everything that day, I can schedule some of them for another day. I don't know why that never occurred to me before. I guess I can be a bit slow on the uptake at times!  

So how do all you other bloggers and writers do it? Please come and share your top tips with me and if I find any out, I'll share them back.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review: Black Lament by Christina Henry

by Christina Henry


RELEASE DATE: 14 February 2013

GENRE: Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black deals with loss every day. But when tragedy touches her own life, Maddy will have to find the strength within to carry on ...

Devastated and grieving, Maddy unexpectedly finds hope with the discovery that she is pregnant. But her joy is short-lived when Lucifer informs her that he wants the baby., hoping to draw on the combined power of two of his bloodlines. Maddy is determined that her grandfather will never have her child, but she's not sure what she can do to stop him.

Being pregnant is stressful enough, but Maddy suddenly finds herself at odds with the Agency, which forbids her from meddling in the affairs of the supernatural courts. When a few of her soul collections go awry, Maddy begins to suspect that the Agency wants to terminate her employment. It should know by now that she isn't the sort to give up without a fight ...


This is the fourth book in Henry's Black Wings series. It picks up immediately after the events in book 3 and I can easily believe readers will have a love/hate relationship with it.

There are Agents of Death, Angels, the Devil, a gargoyle, the fae, vampires, trolls, a strange preying mantis creature and much more. That's a lot of paranormal beings in one book and it's arguable whether this added to the storyline or was a bit overkill. 

I have to confess I'm not the biggest fan of characters like Titania, Oberon and Puck being used as for me, they will forever be associated with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and I find it hard to transpose them anywhere else. Saying that, Henry clearly has her own plans for Puck and hints at what could be an interesting and original backstory for his character. I am definitely looking forwards to learning more about him.

Just as there are a range of different creatures in Black Lament, there are also several storylines running through it. We have Maddy trying to come to terms with Gabriel's death, the shock news of her pregnancy, the realisation that she will have to take drastic action if she wants to be able to protect her baby from not only her enemies but also her family, and trying to fit in her day job with the Agency. That's a lot for anyone to have to deal with but alongside that, and just for good measure, vampires are acting strangely, the Agency sends the Retrievers after Maddy and the rules of the game as she knows them are about to REALLY change. 

There's no getting away from the fact that there's a whole lot of action in this book and for the most part, it works, but there were 2 things that let the story down for me.

Firstly, Maddy's in her first trimester of pregnancy, she should be absolutely exhausted and ridiculously emotional, but she's not, she's fighting a duel with Oberon, battling Charcarian demons, rescuing kidnapped Agents, facing down her father and taking on the Agency. I just couldn't believe she was capable of all of that. I wanted more emotion; more grief, more turmoil, but it wasn't there.

Secondly, Maddy is too perfect. All the men are either in love with her or want to protect her. She can seemingly defeat anyone in a fight. She has just the right set of magical abilities. Does she actually have any flaws? Even the usual - she doesn't take orders well, speaks her mind and has no diplomacy - aren't actually flaws because Maddy actively embraces them. It's actually quite grating that she doesn't even try to avoid getting into fights - how is she going to grow as a character if she always acts/reacts the same way? Surely that will just lead to more of the same?

In spite of the above gripes, I enjoyed Black Lament. It was fast paced. I liked the characters and I thought it had a good ending. Would I read more in this series? Yes. I think the key is to go into it with the right expectations. Think of it as the literary equivalent of The Fast and The Furious; high on action and adrenalin, and you won't go wrong.

Read this if ... you  want lots of action and a quick and easy read

Don't read this if ... you want emotional depth and lots of descriptive passages

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Look what I made! AKA 6 sewing tips for beginners

Remember when I challenged myself to sew something before 8 May 2013?  Well, I did it! Before the deadline and everything! I can't believe it!

I agonised for ages about what to make. I have a tendancy to pick something completely unsuitable for my skill level only to then give up part way through, so I was determined not to do the same this time. The problem is, all the beginner's projects I found were so BORING! No, I don't want to make a cushion cover, or coasters, or another bag! 

In the end, I settled on making an apron using a kit that I'd received when I'd subscribed all those years ago to Sew Magazine; mainly because I knew it contained everything I would need for the project and I could get started straight away.

Not that I did though. Get started straightaway I mean. But when I did, I was really surprised to find I was able to finish the apron in about 3 - 4 hours. And I was on such a high when I did! I actually finished a project! I did something I never thought I would actually do! 

And you know what, if you don't look too closely at the stitching, it's GOOD! It's wearable - even if it's absolutely not my style! And I would make another! Or something else. The sewing world is now officially my oyster!

So readers, I introduce you to my very own home-sewn apron :

And for all you other beginners out there, here are 6 sewing tips that I'd like to share with you and which are based on my experience of sewing my apron:

1. Make sure you have everything you need in one place and ready for use. It's much easier to work on your project if you have somewhere to work and all your bits and pieces to hand.

2. Iron your fabric before you measure and cut your pattern out. Trust me, it's much easier this way than if you leave your fabric in its "i've been stuck in a box for a long time and am now very crumpled" state.

3. Don't rush the pattern cutting out stage. Take your time and double check your measurements. Once you start cutting, there's no going back.

4. Become best friends with your iron. In the past, I've rushed the simple tote bags that I've made and not bothered with pressing the seams before I sew them BUT it really does make a difference.Your end project will look better for it and you will find it easier to sew along a pressed seam than a seam you've just folded over but isn't really staying in place.

5. When it comes to the actual sewing, take your time! Faster isn't necessarily better. Go a little slower and you can focus on creating straight lines, removing pins as you go along, and not stitching one random part of your project to another!

6. Sewing is, I feel, very meditative so whenever you can, work on your projects when there are no other distractions.

If you joined in with my challenge, please do let me know how you got on and what you made.

Now, what shall we make next?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Review: Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

by Danielle Trussoni


RELEASE DATE: 11 April 2013

GENRE: Fiction - Fantasy / Paranormal Thriller

A decade has passed since Verlaine saw Evangeline alight from the Brooklyn Bridge; the sight of her new wings a betrayal that still haunts him. Now an elite angel hunter for the Society of Angelology, he has a single mission: to capture and eliminate her kind.

But when Evangeline suddenly appears, something about her seems different from the other creatures. And when she is kidnapped before his eyes by an assailant who has topped the society's most-wanted list for more than a century, the ensuing chase pulls Verlaine and his fellow angelologists from the shadows of the Eiffel Tower to the palaces of St Petersburg and deep into the provinces of Siberia and the Black Sea coast, where the truth of Evangeline's origin - as well as forces that could restore or annihilate them all - lie in wait.

Conceived against an astonishing fresh tableau of history and science, Angelopolis plumbs Russia's imperial past, modern genetics, and ancient depictions of that most potent angelic appearance- the Annunciation of Gabriel - in a high-octane tale of abduction, treasure seeking, and divine warfare as the fate of humanity once again hangs in the balance.

My thoughts:

Wow! Just, WOW! I absolutely loved this book and really can't praise it enough. It was evocative, captivating, haunting and had a very understated elegance to it. 

The author has created an alternate version of the World with a history (based on real events but given a "fantasy" spin) that is both plausible and fascinating to read. It also referenced many a historical figure and gave a new slant to their lives. I do feel this amalgamation of reality and fantasy made for interesting reading.

The choice of setting really adds to the atmosphere and the themes that are being explored, and it is so refreshing to read a book that is predominantly based in Paris, Russia and Siberia rather than the USA or UK.
The storyline is fast-paced and convincing - I'm not going to talk about the plot though because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. The only complaint I have is that the action sequences were quite swift and over too quickly but I'm willing to overlook this because the book has so many other good points.

Angelopolis is one of those books that I will read several times as I know it will take more than one reading for me to feel like I've extracted every last sip of story from it! Also, I read it without having read the first book, Angelology, but I will definitely go back and read that one as well!

I wasn't entirely expecting the direction that the end of the book took. There's definitely more to come and I CAN'T WAIT TO READ IT!!!

Read this if enjoyed Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy

Don't read this if have strong religious views, as you may find the World history and some of the plot points offensive

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