Friday, 30 November 2012

Reading Challenge #5 - Secret Smile by Nicci French

This book is part of my current reading challenge, which is to get through a rather large to read list. To check out what else I've still got to read go to my Reading Challenge tab at the top of the page.

WARNING:  SPOILER ALERT!  If you haven't read this book yet and don't want to ruin the experience then please do not read any further. I will not be offended, I'd much rather you enjoy the it properly.
If you have read it, then do read on ...

You have an affair. You finish it. You think it's over. You're dead wrong . . .

Miranda Cotton thinks she's put boyfriend Brendan out of her life for good. But two weeks later, he's intimately involved with her sister.

Soon what began as an embarrassment becomes threatening - then even more terrifying than a girl's worst nightmare.

Because this time Brendan will stop at nothing to be part of Miranda's life - even if it means taking it from her . . .


I really enjoyed this book, I was drawn in to the world of the main character, Miranda, from the beginning.
The character was well portrayed and it was easy to sympathise with her situation throughout the book. I felt all the emotions with her as she battled against the evil man who had seemingly set out to take her life apart one piece at a time.
As for the antagonist, Brendan, he was another well presented character, although for different reasons. From the very first time we meet him, something comes across in his character that is unsettling. In my mind he is very slimy, worming his way into every facet of Miranda's life in the subtlest way he can. There were many times when I just wanted to climb into the scene with them and slap his smarmy face.
In the closing pages I was worried at first that he may have one the day as Miranda was attacked and the police officer told her about Brendan's alibi.
When her final coup was revealed, and she'd finally gained the upperhand I felt a sense of relief and satisfaction that she'd come out on top.
I was impressed with the writing in Secret Smile, and the way it drew these emotions out of me, I am definitely interested in reading more by this author and perhaps studying further how she manages to achieve this through her words. It was a quick and easy read, but this was more down to the story and flow of the plot rather than being a simple read.

Rating: 4/5


Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Fifty Shades effect - again

I apologise in advance but I can feel a bit of a rant coming on.

As I was driving into work this morning I heard a little snippet on the radio about the Fifty Shades author EL James. She has made a comment that when she was writing the trilogy she actually had no idea what she was doing, wasn't really working to any kind of plan and was basically just winging it.
I think if anyone could have seen me in my car they may have seen steam coming out of my ears. To be that successful at your first go and earn all those royalties? Well, lucky for her I guess.

I think the main reason it annoyed me was that it makes a bit of a mockery of the rest of us, slaving away every day to make our writing the best it can be. We plan and plot and edit and think constantly about every step of the story as we go along.
I'm not saying that she didn't do any of these things, but it certainly comes across like that. Why do we even bother to go to all this effort if it's as easy as knocking something up off the bat and seeing what happens?

Honestly, I bother because I want to be proud of what I have written and feel I have earned whatever praise I may get for it. I don't just want to churn out any old story just to make a few pence.

Ok, rant over for now. I can carry on with my day now in peace xxx


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Wednesday Blog Hop - Hard to Let Go

It's Wednesday once again, and after a brief rest the blog hop is back. I hope that everyone across the Atlantic had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. I'd say you should feel rested but after hearing some stories about peoples holiday weekends I'm sure you're probably having the rest now!

So for those unfamiliar with this blog hop the rules are as follows:
  • There is one photo and five words, all of which need to be included in your story
  • There is a maximum limit of 500 words
  • You have until the following Wednesday to complete your post
  • When you have finished and posted, link up with one of the blog hosts and let them know you're joining in
  • The main rule is to not take it too seriously, but as the hosts admit it's unlikely that any writers will not take it seriously. As long as you don't fret/panic/pass out/hyperventilate/lose sleep/run in fear over it, then they are happy
The hosts for this blog hop are Nicole Pyles at The World of My Imagination and Carrie Sorenson at Chasing Revery

This weeks photo is:


The words are:                iron, moon, university, bee, bench

And here is my contribution:

Hard to Let Go
I let Jackson get a little way ahead of me with Chester, I didn't want him to see the tears in my eyes. This was one of our favourite places to walk, at this time of year the leaves crunched noisily beneath our boots. I'd let him get as far as the bench up ahead and then I'd have to sit down with him and explain. I wasn't sure if I could keep myself together for long enough but I was going to have to try. I had to stay strong for him, it would only make things harder otherwise.
I'd been looking after Jackson for just over a year, the longest resident that I'd had since entering into the fostering programme. They'd warned me that sometimes it could be hard to let go once a more permanent home had been found for them. The last two children I'd looked after were only babies, and I was surprised how easy it was to hand them over, knowing they were going to a loving family. But with Jackson he was quite a bit older, we could actually talk and get to know each other. He'd been very quiet when he first came to me and had terrible trouble sleeping. Quite often I'd check on him in the evening when he'd gone to bed, and he'd be sat at the window inside the curtains staring up at the moon. I tried not to think too much about what had happened to the children before they came to me, I just had to concentrate on helping them to feel safe.
He settled in nicely after a few weeks, and we established a nice routine that worked for both of us. He'd hit it straight off with Chester, the pair were inseparable now. Something else that would only make this process harder.
I hadn't even thought about how I'd approach the subject with him. I needed to be careful, I didn't want to undo all the good progress we'd made. He'd told me about his dreams, of growing up in a loving home, eventually going off to university so he could get a good job and look after his own family properly. He was already sure he didn't want his own children to grow up like him. Listening to him melted my heart, and in this business that wasn't always a good thing. You were expected to lock your emotions away in an iron vault.
As we reached the bench I called for him to sit down with me, my mind trying to calm before I started. In the trees behind me I noticed a lone bee rustling in the leaves and I thought to myself what a simple life they must lead.

Word count: 459

Why don't you have a go?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Teaser Tuesday - 27th Nov

Teaser Tuesday is a new meme I have discovered, brought to you by MizB at Should Be Reading.

It is all about books on this one and anyone can join in.

All you have to do is:

1.  Grab your current read
2.  Open to a random page
3.  Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
     Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!
5.  Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Then you can hop on over to MizB's blog and add a link to yours in her comments, and check out some other new blogs while you're there!

My teaser for today is:

'And it was almost warm, his usually icy skin.  But I barely noticed, for I was touching his face, something I'd dreamed of constantly since the first day I'd seen him.'

                                                   - p242, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Monday, 26 November 2012

Congratulations NaNoers!

I've just been catching up with my blogs after spending the whole weekend without viewing a single one. I won't be doing that again I can tell you, it's taken me more than a little time going through them all. 

I'm really pleased to see that so many of you that started the NaNoWriMo challenge this year have already finished their 50k word target, and I want to say a huge congratulations to you all! I admire your hard work and dedication in achieving such a target, especially as many of you have a lot more than just writing going on in your lives.

Once again I contemplated doing NaNo this year, and after a tentative start couldn't keep going after the first week.  Too many other things conspired against me and I fell too far behind to catch up. I realise this isn't much of an excuse and I really have to make the time for it, but I've been going through a period of contemplation and growth lately with my writing and I'm sure I'll be much more mentally prepared for it next year.  And I can always have a go at CampNaNoWriMo too if I fancy it sooner.

For those of you still going with your NaNo experience, keep at it, the end is in sight!

I'll have to put my own challenge attempt on next years to-do list.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Breaking Dawn 2 - Not too bad at all ...

Photo courtesy of

So, the new Twilight movie? I'd have to say that it is actually pretty good.

The feelings of discomfort that I was worried about were certainly there, but for reasons I wasn't anticipating.  There were a lot of teenagers there, as well as younger children, which I was surprised at as the film is rated a 12A. There was a particular sex scene that, although not very graphic for an adult, I felt was quite inappropriate for some of the youngsters in there.  Then later on there was quite a lot of head removal and body tearing. I'm not sure if this is an age thing, maybe I'm starting to get a little too old, but I certainly don't remember seeing such things when I was so young.
Apart from that though I really enjoyed the film. I went through a range of emotions, including annoyance at Kristen Stewart.  I don't rate her very highly as an actress but the focus in this film was less on her so she couldn't be too whiney about everything. I loved the whole coming together of the vampire community, as well as the werewolves, to go up against the might of the strongest vampires, all to protect one little girl.
I'm not sure about the whole Edward/Jacob debate, but I would definitely be on Team Carlisle.  He's such a cool vampire, taking things in his stride, and he's not too bad on the eye either :-)
It's been a long while since I've read the books for this series, and seeing the film has now compelled me to dig them out and read them again.  In fact, that may be my next stop after signing off.

After making a nice cup of tea that is ...

Friday, 23 November 2012

Team Jake or Edward ...

A couple of friends are dragging me off to see the new Twilight film tomorrow, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it.

I've been to see all the ones before, and I've read all of the books but I still can't make my mind up whether I like them or not.

When I read the books it didn't take very long, I was drawn in and felt compelled to get to the end.  The ending was a fairly satisfying one, no loose ends or the feeling of 'oh, is that it?' But I still can't say for certain if they were good or not.  I think that throughout I had a niggling in the back of my mind that it's target market is more teenagers, and I'm not sure if I'm getting to be a bit too old to be enjoying these books. I suppose at the end of the day it doesn't really matter, you like what you like.  Overall I did enjoy them, but it's safe to say I'm not an ecstatic fanatic.

The same thinking goes for the films. They are not as good as the books (I find films rarely are) but they were enjoyable nonetheless. I do get a little bit conscious however when there are lots of teenage girls going in to the cinema, proudly declaring which camp they are in, Jake or Edward. When asked the same question I feel I can't even consider it without feeling a little squirm inside. Even though the
 actors may be a bit older, the characters are essentially teens themselves (well, I know they're vampires and so older than everyone, but the facade they're carrying off is that of teens).  To me that's just a little too weird.

I'm sure that I'm probably over thinking all of this and should just go along to the film and see what it's like.  After that I may revisit the books to see if I can fathom what makes them so compelling.

I'll let you know how I get on tomorrow ...

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanks for the inspiration

There is a blog that I follow called Scotty Watty Doodle All the Day and he posts something to his blog every single day without fail.  The only time that I have managed to do blogging like this was during the A-Z Challenge back in April, and I think I just about managed to post something every day.

Since then I've been trying to go for a couple of times a week, but I have a tendency to forget that I'm supposed to do it and two weeks can go by without anything from me. 
The last post I read from this guy, Hygge Man, struck a chord within me somewhere and I'm wondering to myself if I could manage to keep going with a post every day.  He admits that if he doesn't post something every day then he finds it harder to stick to a schedule to do it each week. 

A little voice within me was trying to whisper something to me 'I wonder if I could do a post every day.  maybe I'll put it in my diary to try it in the new year'.
But then a louder voice shouted back 'The new year!? Why wait? Get started on it today!'

I sat and listened to this second voice and though how right it was.  Why on earth should I wait a few weeks to get started on something like this? I'll probably forget anyway, and then feel disappointed with myself for not following through on yet another idea. 

So this is my first post in what I hope will remain a daily habit.  I want to say a massive thanks to Hygge Man, you're inspiration today has pushed me on to the next step in this writing journey.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Expanding onto pastures new ...

I hadn’t realised it until now but I’ve had this blog going for just over a year.  I’ve been quite absorbed in other things lately and the first anniversary on 3rd October completely passed me by.
So here I am saying a belated Happy 1st Birthday to my lovely blog!  

I had one before this but I didn’t manage to keep it going for one reason or another.  It was along the same kind of lines as this one when it started out, but after a whole year of posting this one has evolved into something a bit different.

It was originally intended as a means of chronicling my first tentative steps into the world of writing, but I have found writing to be a tricky business to get into.  I don’t just mean that from a publishing point of view either.  I'm not far enough along yet to know anything about that side of it!   

The very act of coming up with stories and then sitting down to turn them into something readable is a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Needless to say I haven’t given up, but I don’t want to say too much about that now; I’m saving it for the next IWSG post.

I’m pleased that my blog covers all three aspects of my title: book reviews (although these have been lacking lately) for Reading, blog hops and short pieces for Writing, and I think my film challenge is qualifying in the Everything in Between section.

Doing the A-Z challenge back in April certainly helped to boost my blogging confidence and I’m looking forward to it again next year.  I’ll probably work more to a theme next time around.
The focus of my blog seems to have moved a little way away from the art of writing over the last few months, and this has prompted me to think about starting up a second blog to focus solely on writing.  I fully intend to keep this blog going, it’s a lot of fun to do and I still have my challenges to get through!

I think for the new one though, I want to try and keep a journal of my writing practices and have a regular spot to post short stories and at this stage I’m thinking of themes for each month to write stories about.  It’s still in the very early planning stages but I will keep you updated as to its progress.  Ideally I’d like a launch date of 1st January, and now that I’ve made this semi-announcement about it I should have more impetus to get it moving.  Watch this space for more news!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Wednesday Blog Hop Extra

A little extra treat for you all today, in the form of a belated Blog Hop entry.  Last week I decided to try a new strategy for writing short stories, by writing them by hand in my notebook first with the intention of typing it up and posting it before this weeks prompt.
Unfortunately I just didn't get the time to type it up and so missed the deadline.  But I have got the story ready so I'm still going to put it up for you to read.
As a result of this little mishap I am once again rethinking my writing strategy.

If you don't recall, these are the details for the prompt:

                                                      tar, lollipop, courage, figure, parasite

And here is my offering:

The Cruelty of Time

One of the highlights of the summer would always be when my big brother took me to the circus. It was always the same bank holiday weekend when all the tents would magically appear overnight, and the whole town would join together in excitement and anticipation.
When I was very small my brother always went along with his friends, but as soon as I was big enough he started taking me along too. He always used to take care of me and made sure I had a good time. The first time I was there I was amazed at all the sights and sounds. Different kinds of music came from all directions, enticing customers to the tents scattered around. All were brightly coloured and strings of lights swung back and forth between them, illuminating the network of paths. There were lots of colourful figures walking amongst us all. Some did magic tricks, some were eating fire, others carried huge trays full of various eats and treats. My brother bought me the biggest lollipop I'd ever seen, a huge globe of blue and white. My favourite act by far was the lion tamer. Every night he would show his courage, locked away in a tiny cage with the king of beasts. My brother and I would wave and cheer and talk about it for days afterwards.
When he went away to university I worried those days would be gone, but mum assured me he would be home for summer and we could still continue our tradition.
So he we were, on our way to our tenth annual circus trip. He was driving us in his banged up classic, his mass of keyrings jangling beneath the steering wheel. The heat of the summer had melted the road in places and the smell of tar filtered in through the open windows. Somehow I didn't feel quite as excited about this trip as I had all the others. Since he'd been home I'd hardly seen my brother and he'd only really brought me today at mum's insistence.
Once there, I trailed along behind as he went about with his friends and hardly spoke two words to me. When I pointed out the lollipops he reluctantly gave me some change and sent me off on my own to get one.
My heart sank as I heard his friends talking behind me. 'Give him some more money, and then let's ditch the parasite.' I felt crushed as my brother just laughed with them.
That was the day I came to realise just how cruel time could be, and how it had taken the best of times between me and my brother.

Word count: 445


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wedneday Blog Hop - Daddy's Little Girl

So, it's been a little while but I've got a contribution to this weeks Snapshot Blog Hop.  And it's only a day after the criteria is posted, so yay me!

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the Wednesday Blog Hop is a brilliant link up organised by  Chasing Revery and The World of My Imagination, and ably assisted by a few guest hosts too.

Each Wednesday they provide a picture prompt and five key words, all of which need to be melded together to give a little yarn of up to 500 words.  You then have until the following week to knock something together, post on your blog and link up at their pages to spread the love.

This week the key elements are:

                               Peaked, geothermal, livestock, mutual, hydroelectric

I found this weeks prompts particularly tricky, especially with the words given, but I've given it a go nonetheless.  If I'm honest I'm not too sure about this one.  I kind of knew what I wanted to get across but I'm not sure I've achieved this.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on what I've offered.

Without further ado:

Daddy's Little Girl

I watched Hayley and Aaron heading off up the corridor, trying not to think about how I'd nearly lost them. She didn't have a scratch on her. He hadn't been that lucky, but at least he still escaped with his life. The doctors say he may learn to walk again once he gets used to his prosthetic.
I'd never considered his job to be all that dangerous. If I had I would never have let him take our daughter with him to test the new facility. For some reason I had the impression that renewable energy was safe, but I guess electricity can be dangerous no matter where it comes from.
The new hydroelectric plant had been all Aaron had been talking about for weeks. It was a nice change for him after spending so long working on geothermal recovery, a chance to stretch his wings a little. He'd managed to get Hayley interested in it too, and was keen to show her what he and his team had been putting together. I had no objections, we had a mutual opinion when it came to involving her in our own interests, plus I think he was proud to show off his little girl to his work colleagues. She was a bright little thing, even for a four year old, and she never ceased to amaze either of us with how quickly she'd pick things up.
With this in mind he was trying to get her keen on joining his campaign for renewable energy, and taking her along to see it was all part of the fun.
He only took his eye off her for a moment, but that's all it takes with little ones. Her attention had been caught by some livestock in a neighboring field and she'd wandered over to see them.
The explosion was sudden, and the sides of the building were already flying through the air by the time Aaron realised that Hayley was no longer holding his hand. He whirled around frantically until he saw her and raced over to shield her from any debris. As he was running he could see the flames as they rose and peaked high in the sky, and the large sheets of building being sent in all directions. A particularly large piece was heading straight for our little girl and he'd pumped his legs to reach her; the last time that he would. As he grabbed her he'd felt the impact against his back. It pushed them both to the ground and he tried his best not to crush her. His legs were not so lucky from the onslaught of the building fragments, one large enough to cut through his leg just above his knee. Hayley had been crying and calling out as he passed out from the pain.
I could hear her now, chattering away as she pushed her daddy along. 'Don't worry daddy, I'll take care of you. Just like you did with me.'

Word count:  496

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Coping with permanent fatigue

This post is part of the Insecure Writers Group hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh, where writers  can share their insecurities and positive vibes with the rest of the writing community.  Offer words of encouragement or talk about your struggles, it's up to you but head on over to Alex's place to share in the ups and downs of our craft.

Right now my insecurities lie in my ability to cope with the levels of tiredness I am constantly dealing with.
My little girl started at school in September, and as a result my whole working schedule has shifted to accommodate this.  At the moment I am getting myself up around 5.30-6am to get myself ready and into work for a 7am start.  I am doing a full days work in the lab, which I am enjoying, but I'm usually fairly busy running about doing plenty.
I then pick my daughter up at 3.15pm, get home to do dinner etc. and get her to bed by 7pm so I can have a sit down.
At first the idea of this schedule seemed a good one.  I'd be home in the afternoon so there should be plenty of time to get some kind of writing done, be it planning, writing or editing.  However, I am finding myself getting more and more tired as the weeks go on and the thing that is suffering is my writing.  I'm concerned that something may have to give at some point so that I'm not so busy, and logically writing would be the thing to go.  This is a painful thing to have to consider as I've just started to get back into enjoying writing just for the sake of doing it.  I find it a kind of therapy for focusing my mind away from the everyday but it's hard sometimes to fit it all in.
Even as I write this I feel it may be coming out a little bit confused, I can feel sleep digging its heels in now, beckoning me.
It's a hard task trying to get a balance that works, so that I can do all the things I'd like to and still have quality time for my family.

How do you cope with the pressures of everyday life and fitting writing in around it?  Any tips gratefully received!