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Showing posts from 2015

Twas The Night Before Christmas...

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... and all through the house, people were reading the Radio Times and working out what to watch on the TV over the festive season.

I still haven't brought my Radio Times yet, I'll have to try and get one tomorrow... not that it's really needed... Disney, Superheroes, an abundance of kids films, ridiculously long soaps and Doctor Who (possibly the only thing worth watching these days). I remember having a list as long as my arm to record, but the last few years "normal" TV channels leave a lot to be desired. So here's my favourite episodes and films that you should watch if you want some Christmas cheer.

Vicar of Dibley - Christmas Dinner:

I think this is probably my favourite TV Christmas special. In general VoD is great but this one fills me with joy every time I watch it.

Geraldine being the kind soul that she is agrees to having dinner at a parishioners house, a second invitation causes a problem, but the guilt of turning someone down snowballs. Soon she&#…

How To Have The Perfect Do Nothing Day

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Today I was reminded that not everyone knows how to relax. Some people have so much on their plate that they don't know how to maximise time to chill out and enjoy a do nothing day. So for those of you who are looking for enlightenment, or those of you who are simply looking to hone your skills, here are my top tips for a complete relaxation optimised day.


NOTE: You can't just enter a do nothing day halfheartedly, to do it properly you need to commit and pre-plan the essentials.

So where should you start? Here are my top tips for what needs to be done in the...

Run up to a do nothing day
Snacks: During the week when you go to the supermarket pick up some essential munchies. Remember to make it a variety because you never know what might take your fancy. Go for savoury and sweet [together if you're so inclined... sweet and salty popcorn is awesome, as is salted popcorn with a side of peanut M&Ms], crisps, ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, pastries, fruit [if you must, but I…

10 Ways To A More Positive Life

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For the first time in ages it really does feel like a fog has lifted. I found enthusiasm that I haven't had for years and it's finally starting to set in. I won't lie, it still isn't perfect but I'll get there soon. The urge to come home and stop doing things is still strong, but if I keep setting targets I'll soon get into the swing of things. Little steps.

I tried what felt like everything to bring myself out of the fog. It's easier to see it all now that I'm closer to the horizon, but really what it needed was a little bit of everything.

So here are my 10 suggestions to turning things around, hopefully you'll find something that will work for you.

1] Treat yourself right
Now most things I have read say "exercise... diet... blah blah blah". I can't deny those will work, but when you're low that level of commitment to something isn't always possible. I will cover food and exercise in a bit, but this time "treat yourself r…

How To Achieve Things With Limited Time

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Motivation, motivation, motivation.

I hardly ever achieve anything at the weekends, it's too tempting to surf the net and play on Pinterest instead of doing sensible things. So I made myself a list. A list will solve anything.

At first I started with the big jobs that needed to be done in the house, but that seemed kind of pointless as most of them I can't achieve on my own, so I added more day to day things. Finally putting away those boxes, actually hanging up my washing instead of leaving it folded on my dresser. It's daft but once you've achieve a couple of things off the list the rest seems like child's play.

So my list was a massive 26 things long. Including putting up shelving through the house, painting my hallway and repainting some canvasses. I worked out that I could actually do 14 of the things off the list without spending a penny or really lifting a finger.

But you have to start small with these things, so I told myself to do half of them or lose my T…

DC Essential

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I love reading graphic novels, and with so many comics being produced with individual storylines and crossovers it's difficult to keep track or know where to start on something new.
This book works great for the new reader, you've got the key points on where to start with each character and area, but it's by no means a full list.
It's a very helpful guide, but it is just that, and a lot of people seem to forget that online... I always go and look for reviews after I've read something, and I'm amazed how often people have missed the point completely.
Recommend this to people who come to you asking about where they should start with DC, it'll give them a great foundation for finding which characters are right for them. While I have a lot of web pages bookmarked and encyclopedias even I get to a point where I don't know which comic goes where. It would be nice to have a complete version of this for the more experienced readers. The amount of times I'v…

Far Out Fairy Tales

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I always enjoy a good fairy tale. There are some fantastic adaptations out there and it never ceases to amaze me how many new twists people are able to come up with. Far Out Fairy Tales is a great example of that. The series is due to be published in April 2016 in paperback format, five books at £4.99 each.
Let's take a quick look at each story...
Ninja-rella has honed her skills, kept her mind sharp with chess and her body sharp with swordsmanship. As with the traditional tale of Cinderella she is cast into service for her step-mother and step-sisters, but when the ball comes around Ninja-rella wishes  to go so she can show off her skills and become the prince's bodyguard.
Red Riding Hood - Superhero. Granny works hard as the President of the United States, and takes  Ruby on a trip to Area 54. There she meets an alien who accidentally leaves his cloak behind when he flees. The cloak comes in handy when she has to face Professor Grimm, the mad scientist who was bitten by a rad…

You To Me Are Everything

So I've been a little illusive since coming back from holiday, I thought I'd get back into the swing of it with a waffling list of nonsense.

After everything with the Tampon Tax I decided to list the things in my life I can't live without. Something to watch after reading this... AFTER... is this video of Russell Howard's take on it which made me chuckle earlier.

I'm going to start with the materialistic... my enslavement to the digital revolution.


My iPad. When I originally brought it I honestly thought I'd never use it, but I had to have one. I don't think there's been a day where I haven't used it. Mainly at the moment I use it to listen to audio books and make jigsaws... what an excellent use of technology I hear you say. Some days are more productive than others!I'm a bit of a binge buyer at times, mainly stationery. There's something oddly satisfying about writing in a new pad with a new pen!I decided to put my house on the list. Not ju…

Ghostly Goings On

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So during my lunch break I set to reading The Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney. Spoiler alert, it's a very short book and you'll still have time left.

The back of the book leaves you with a good feeling about the contents.

This is the entrance to the Witch Well and behind that door you'd face your worst nightmare. Don't ever go through there.
Night falls, the portcullis rises in the moonlight, and young Billy starts his first night as a prison guard. But this is no ordinary prison. There are haunted cells that can't be used, whispers and cries in the dark... and the dreaded Witch Well. Billy is warned to stay away. But what is hiding in the night, awaiting him?
The story itself is very atmospheric even though it's under a hundred pages. But to be honest, while I enjoyed it, I felt like it could have been a "proper novel". When I finished I got the sense of a great story but it felt like it was almost a long synopsis/introduction you'd hand to a pub…

Portal To Nowhere

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Today's read was Portal 24 by Meredith Stroud.

Darin's is just a teen con-artist out on a date with his girlfriend when he's approached by a government agent who wants to recruit him. She shows him a picture. To persuade him? To scare him? Either way it can't be real because the Darius in that picture would almost certainly be dead, and he is very much alive.
Soon he realises that his mystery agent knew the future, and to save himself and his girlfriend he does the only thing he can. He joins Project Oberon, a top secret experiment that sends teens back in time to stop disasters... and not long after Darius joins, one strikes.
Ludd, evil mastermind, has used an EM weapon that could kill millions unless the team can go back and disarm it before it goes off. The only problem? Ludd knows about Oberon and will do anything to stop them. Even by testing their resolve by leaving them with no way back, and the possibility they will be lost in time.
I tried reading this book s…

Private Reader

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Guess what everyone?! I've done it again! Today I read Private LA by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan in the Private series... and no it's not the first one! It could be number seven in the Private series, or if you go by some sites I've looked at it's included in the Jack Morgan series which is within the Private series... who knows... my tip is to just read them in order of publication (don't follow my example). Yet again (thank you authors) this can be read on its own.

Jack Morgan doesn't want to take the latest case that's come to light, he's already on a job, but when he finds out that Hollywood's biggest couple have gone missing without a trace he agrees to take it on.
Information is difficult to come by, as well as Thom and Jennifer Harlow being missing, so are their three adopted children and their personal assistant. Called in by the executives who work with the Harlows Justine knows something isn't adding up as they dig deeper into t…

War Doctor

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Today's read was Doctor Who Engines of War by George Mann.

Cinder has engage a Dalek hunting party on her planet, Moldox, and things were getting a little bit dangerous until a strange wooden blue box fell from the sky crushing one of the last two mutant Daleks. As she approaches she's greeted with coughing and spluttering from inside as a grumpy old man appears over the edge. She's not convinced that a man who's fallen from the sky can be trusted, but when the remaining Dalek appears and he tells her to get in the blue box that's laying on its side in the rubble, she does.
"Bigger on the inside. Yes I know."
"It's the right way up."
"Hmmm, I wasn't expecting that one."
As Cinder and The Doctor explore her ruined planet they discover how low the Daleks will stoop to get the upper hand. As well as their plan to eradicate the Time Lords, that could crumble to entire universe.
I have never read a Doctor Who novel before, and I wa…

Reader's Instinct

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When will I learn that I need to check before reading a book to see whether it is in a series or not? I feel like it'll happen again before this week is up... so, I read Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes which is number TWO in The Naturals series.

When a young woman is murdered and displayed for all to see on her university campus something seems awfully familiar. Dean recognises his father's handy work, but he's been locked up for his crimes, so who is out there copying on of the country's most infamous serial killers?
Cassie, Dean, Michael, Lia and Sloane are all Naturals, a collection of teen experts in profiling, emotions, deception and analysis. There's a new FBI agent working with them, and she's aiming for change, can the team push this aside and use their skills to stop the killer?
So as I said at the top, I cleverly read a book out of order... again... I really should have learnt by now! Luckily for me this is another one that reads perfectly we…

Space, Where The Pirates Go To Play

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My latest read was Spacejackers by Huw Powell.

Jake Cutler doesn't know his family, the nearest thing he has are the cyber-monks on Remota that he was left with as a child eleven years ago. But now there's trouble, the monastery has some unwelcome visitors dressed a space pirates, and they've come for Jake.
During his escape from the planet Jake finds himself thrown together with a fortune seeker, a healer, an adolescent alien and a band of space pirates captained by the formidable Granny Leatherhead. Can they find Jake's mythical home planet? More importantly, can they stay alive long enough to try?
This book definitely ticks all the boxes for a children's fiction title. Space adventure. Pirates (in space). Quirky characters... and did I mention pirates in space!? It would appeal to boys around the 9/10+ range and is a great science fiction adventure... or "space opera" as I saw on Goodreads.
I enjoyed the story immensely, a quest in essence where Jake …

Emma Emulate

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"I have not left you. But I am gone.
Please carry on as normal. Love always, Hayley."


Time to waffle about Who Is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace.
When Tom's girlfriend Hayley "leaves" him it's an understatement to say he's confused. Has she gone or hasn't she? Tom starts to investigate, it's in his journalistic nature. His first lead... Andy, from the place... Not much to go on but it does lead him to a very odd meeting with some very odd people.
Nothing is making sense yet, what do these people do? And who is following him?
I don't know why this has been sitting in my TBR for so long. I had tried it a couple of times and failed early on. The book itself is two tales wound into one, a background tale (that I decline to talk about because spoilers sweetie) and Tom's tale of discovery. I did have to read back a few times during the background chapters because at the start I couldn't quite work out how they fit together, but it was an inte…

I See Dead People

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Today's read was Supervision by Alison Stine.

Esme has had a few problems.

She lives with her sister in New York but after the latest incident her sister is shipping her off to her Grandmother who neither girl has seen for years.
The trip is not something she's looking forward to, but it's even worse when she gets there. She arrives at the station only to see her grandmother get in her car and leave without her. Is she holding a grudge from when they moved away? Seem isn't sure as she starts to walk up to the house on her own. When she eventually gets there she heads straight to bed, tomorrow is another day, and that day means school.
If she thought it couldn't get worse, she was wrong.
Teachers don't acknowledge her, the students ignore her, someone even accidentally sits on her... but she does make two friends, Clara and Tom. So she's had a good day... right? Maybe not, because they're dead.
Inherited gifts make for a good storyline, it lets the auth…

Fear, The Silent Killer

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I'm already a fan of Jeffrey Deaver, so when I saw Solitude Creek on Netgalley I had to give it a try. He produces consistently good books, and I binge read the Lincoln Rhyme series after seeing the film (knowing of course that they would be so much better). I had however only read one of the Kathryn Dance books (The Sleeping Doll) before I had a little holiday from reading crime novels. This is number four in the series, I'm sure I would have missed some things by not reading two and three, by on its own it is a very enjoyable read.

When a tragedy happens at a venue in Monterey Peninsula that leaves some dead and many injured it sends the community reeling. The patrons had come to have fun, but when they smell smoke and the alarm is raised, panic ensues. They run from the supposed scene of the fire only to find that the fire exits are blocked. Fear takes over. Panic follows, and by the time they discover there's no fire it's too late, the stampede has killed them.
Ka…

View From The Country

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It takes travelling over 4000 miles to realise what you needed was to see something beautiful.
Yesterday I got on a plane at Gatwick and flew to Antigua. Nothing really beats flying in over the islands and seeing the bright and unusual houses and huts. Oh wait... When you come off the plane they are playing steel drums, which has to be one of my favourite sounds ever. Oh wait... This morning, because I'm still on English time I got up and went out on the balcony at 4am, all you can hear is the sound of nature: crickets chirping, water dripping on the leaves... the closer you listen the more you hear. The water shimmers with the moonlight, the sky is perfectly clear and filled with stars and just the faint glow of lights across the bay.
Some times humans and nature can do wonderful things together. *contented sign*

Writing YA: John Boyne & Andy Mulligan

Firstly I'll confess that I have not read books by either of these authors. I can hear the gasps of shock now. As an excuse, historical fiction isn't really my thing, I have considered picking up The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas more than once but have never quite made it past the front cover.
Over the few talks that I've been to it has been interesting to get the insight into what the path of each writer has been before becoming a published author. These two were no exception. Andy Mulligan worked in the theatre and was happily made redundant, he then went travelling and eventually became a teacher. Throughout this all he was writing and came across his agent through the school. John Boyne had done a writing degree and wanted to be around books while he wrote so he got a job in Waterstones [I'll forgive him!] where he got to encounter a lot of famous authors and other book professionals.
Both authors have had similar experiences through their lives, that have seeped int…

An Appreciation of Children's Literature

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Last night I saw my fourth Bath Children's Literature Festival talk, this one was all about how brilliant children's writing is. For those of you who didn't know that... it's a fact. A great panel led by editor Danny Hahn who was joined by authors David Almond [the man who has won pretty much everything], Sally Gardner and Pushkin Press publisher Adam Freudenheim.

There were lots of great points made, but again I'm going to streamline them so as not to waffle... yes, yes we all know I'm going to do that anyway.

Listening to how Adam decided to launch the Pushkin Press children's list was one of the most interesting things. He was originally working with Penguin Classics and a lot of the work involved in that was translating books for the range. Looking at the range of children's books there are these days very few are translated from other languages compared to adult fiction, which in itself has very few translated books. So many fantastic stories are …

The Writers' Creative Journey

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I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, a discussion with three writers who have all come out of the Bath Spa University MA in Writing for Young People course... I had the worry it was just going to be a plug for the course. It was, but only because the three authors were so inspiring that if they'd had a sign up sheet outside I think everyone would have run out shouting "shut up and take my money!"
The discussion was run by Ben Horslen who is an editorial director of Penguin Random House children's books. He was excellent, just as engaged as the writers and came out with some interesting points as well.
Sally Nicholls was very different to the way I pictured her... it's horribly judgmental of me I know, but I guess I always pictured someone older, I googled her this morning and she's 32... only a youngster. She's a wonderfully animated speaker and spoke with such enthusiasm about, well, everything to be honest! One of the surprising things she br…

Diversity: The Daily Telegraph Debate

Lorna Bradbury, Daily Telegraph's book reviews editor, talks to acclaimed writers, Liz Kessler (Read Me Like A Book), Bali Rai ((Un)arranged Marriage) and Shannon Cullen from Penguin Random House about the need for diversity in children's books and what that really means. No topic is off limits.

I've included the description of this Bath Children's Literature Festival event because as was admitted on the stage, it wasn't really a debate, more of a discussion as all the panelists had the same view.

Simply summed up, the consensus is yes we need more diversity, but the real question is where does that diversity need to come from?

I'll just pick up on a couple of the topics mentioned, other wise I'll end up waffling for ages on this topic.

Encouraging creative writing. There are stories of people who read books to their kids and realised that if they wanted diversity they were going to have to write it themselves. As sad as it is to hear this it is also a grea…

Bath Picks: Sarah Crossan, Sarah Benwell and Virginia Bergin

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So I made my first visit to the Bath Children's Literature Festival and saw three great YA authors talking about their books.

There are lots of events to see over this week and as soon as I saw Virginia Bergin's name on this one it had to be my first pick. I read both of her books from Netgalley, cover to cover without wanting to stop, and YA books are just a fantastic area of fiction.

First thing I'll note... to be a good YA author you have to have wonderful boots... evidently!

Each author has a very different style, and a very different manner.

Sarah Crossan is an exceptional speaker, confident and a little bit wacky. I will admit that contemporary/family fiction is not generally my thing, but hearing Sarah talk about this one made me have a change of heart. Listening to her process was very interesting, and some readers will be happy to know that you don't necessarily have to do much research to bring a book to life [although we really do appreciate it when they do]…

What Comes Of Being A Grownup

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Sometimes life doesn't quite go the way you'd hope. The things you always wanted to do, the people you always wanted to meet, the books you always wanted to read... sometimes that life gets dealt to someone else. For this leading lady this couldn't be more true, living off her earnings as a psychic and the odd hand job, tell the punters what they want and you can make a good wage.
Enter Susan Burke, she's moved into a Victorian house and ever since things haven't been quite the same. Could something be inhabiting her house, and her stepson Miles? One things for sure, there could be a lot of money to be had. But there's a catch, when our psychic goes to the house she feels it too, like something is watching... waiting...
I started writing this review three times, it was so difficult to know where to start, mainly because I finished it and couldn't put my thoughts together... "Wait, what? Oooooohhh. It can't be, could it?" There weren't any…