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Konrath Challenge Shorts: Reviews

So Joe Konrath did a challenge that I mentioned a while back in a blog post (to write a book, edit it and design its cover in less than 8 hours). I have finally got around to reading the first 5 of those that I picked up and thought I’d review them all together (I grabbed quite a few so there will probably be another review of 5 to come at some point).

This was my first choice in reading and I have to admit it really surprised me. I expected something quite silly, especially from the title (I also expected knitting to be more of the focus). This was a cute, feel good story that had a touch of romance and a quirky main character.

If you read none of the other Konrath challenge shorts, read this one. I really enjoyed it and think others will too. My favourite of the lot but only just. (also included in the kiss anthology, which is free at the moment).

 

My next one was 31 ways to not be a douchebag. This one had me laughing out loud. Packed full of good advice with a funny, slightly angry focus (these things all seem to have happened to the author and when you read them the anger is perfectly understandable).

At several points I found myself cringing at how anyone can do the things mentioned and I’m sure some of you will too, but it does say these are all true stories. If nothing else, reading this made me very thankful for my friends and gave me a few laughs at the author’s expense.

My third read was Horror Stories of a computer tech and has a similar feel to the previous short, in that it recounts stories of things that have actually happened. I also found myself laughing out loud at a couple of the stories in here. There are several, not quite so smart people out there.

There were also a few that I found were quite grim and I soon felt sorry for our computer tech storyteller. It sounds like every trip to a customers house is a potential for a crazy story. I’d have liked to see more that were funny over the ones that were gross or strange, but that may be a personal preference.

 

The fourth of my Konrath shorts was probably the most useful of the five (although I can’t eat macaroni or cheese at the moment, unfortunately. In here was an honest mum’s guide to feeding your kids with the quick useful ingredients in your kitchen cupboard, without breaking the bank or taking too long to cook. Many of the ideas were concepts I’d never have thought of, although I couldn’t try any of the recipes to see if they were any good, unfortunately (I definitely wished I could).

I also highly recommend this one for those who want a quick way to spice up their kids food on days when they are exhausted.

And finally, the fifth of the shorts I picked up to read. This one probably has the weakest cover but don’t let that put you off. This was one of my favourites. It’s a story format like the first and good for the younger readers to enjoy.

I especially thought this one was good imagination wise. For such a short space of time to create a book this was by far the most imaginative and the up sise is that if your kid likes this one, then there are several sequels listed in the back.

That’s my reviews folks. It’s hard to list these in any particular order as they are all rather different and all have their seperate uses and reasons to like them. Not disappointed with the Konrath challenge, that’s for sure.

My 400th Blog Post

I just happened to take a glance at my blog post counter a couple of weeks ago and noticed that I was very close to a multiple of a hundred and found I couldn’t just ignore such a figure once I reached it. I have somehow managed to keep blogging and hit the 400 point!

Last night I asked my husband, Phil, how I should celebrate this. He said I needed pandas so that’s that criteria sorted. Panda babies for you to go awwww over.

Personally I don’t think it’s a celebration without cake, but I’ve not got time to bake today (mostly because I spent a few too many hours looking up origami kusudama) so here’s a picture of some origami I made instead. It’s not a full kusudama yet, but with another 11 of these all put together it would be.

The other thing that celebrations usually have is some kind of free awesome and since Sherdan’s Country is almost finished in second draft and will be on its way to my editor very shortly, I’m giving away an advanced ebook copy of it! Whoever comments on the blog will get their name stuck in a hat and in a week I’ll announce a winner. Standard t’s and c’s will apply, with the exception of the prize delivery time. The advanced copy isn’t technically ready yet but the reader will get a copy of the ebook at least a week before the official launch in late Autumn.

So thank you everyone who’s been reading my writing blogs, reviews, random thoughts, creative experiments and all the other sorts of things I’ve decided were a good idea to blog about in the past and here’s to hundreds more.

The Edge of Tomorrow: A Review

This was one of those films where the trailer looked awesome but I was mildly worried about the actual film. The groundhog day sorta plot has been used a lot and to mixed results. It’s so easy to have a boring film with lots of stuff repeated too often, so I went to see this one with a bit of trepidation.

I’m so glad I saw it. if the lego movie hadn’t been so awesome it would be my favourite film of the year so far (seriously, what’s not to love about a bad-ass chick with an epic sword? <—).

Plot wise, it wasn’t totally special. Every time the guy died the day reset back to the morning where he woke up. Nothing new there, not really, but the aliens were a fun new take and the ‘how do we save the day’ part of the plot was actually really interesting and complex with several twists I didn’t see coming.

The movie was super tense in places, despite the comfort in the back of the mind that he would just wake up again when he died, so serious kudos to the director and actors for that one.

Character wise I think this was some of Tom’s best acting. He really handled the transformation from bumbling, totally scared into the battle-hardened tank he is by the end of the film. And all because of Emily Blunt!

She was by far my favourite part of this film. A strong female character who actually had some depth, wasn’t the damsel in distress at any point in the film. Even when she sorta was and he tried to treat her that way. She knew what she had to do, why she had to do it and didn’t let anyone get in her way.

My only complaint is this one few seconds they kept repeating of her (<—). I’d have had no complaints about this films portrayal of women (for once) if they hadn’t included this dumb clip that was obviously meant to be a ‘look, we have a hot woman in this film’. It was totally unecessary and really didn’t need to be repeated so often either.

Otherwise, epic film, epic characters and epic remix of an otherwise naff plot.

Angel of the Sands: Part 7

A few minutes drag by as you sit in the heat, fanned by a servant or slave. You’re not sure which, just that they often attend you. As you feel even hotter you fidget and look at Temullgei to see if he’s really sleeping or you can talk to him to distract yourself.

His eyes open as soon as you turn to him so you give him an apologetic smile.

“Lean back and we’ll talk then,” he said. With an even broader smile you settle down next to him and wriggle to get comfortable. Immediately your servant shifts to fan you better in the new position.

“What should I expect to happen when we reach… our destination?” You ask, forgetting what he’d called the place and people there.

“When I present you to the Khaadain?” He says. You nod. “They will talk with you. Ask you questions about where you’re from and then prepare you for the ceremony.”

“What happens in the ceremony?”

“Little to concern you. You will be presented to any Khaads currently dwelling there. Normally the Angel is offered wives, but you will not be allowed multiple husbands. I will speak to the Khaadain about this before the ceremony. You will be given slaves and gifts, male and female and then there will be a feast in your honour. From that point on, you will have the choice to join the Khaadain, if you take no husband.”

“I won’t be returning home?” Disappointment runs through you. You’d already suspected you might be stuck here but a glimmer of hope had flickered within you. He shakes his head.

“None of the other Angels ever managed to leave, although most looked for a way home. You are here with us forever. I hope you can be happy here, Angel.”

“So my choices are to marry or join the Khaadain?” You ask, getting back to the life he was describing for you.

“Not exactly. You could choose neither at first, but I do not recommend you delay the decision.”

“Why not?”

“If you join the Khaadain, you become a devoted mother of all our people. No man may lie with you without breaking our most sacred laws, so you will be safe from all the Khaads. If you marry, your husband will also protect you, until he dies and you join the Khaadain, or choose to marry again.”

“So the Khaadain are women who’ve been married, or won’t ever marry?” He nods and smiles at your understanding before continuing to answer your previous question.

“For the most part, yes, although our eldest men will live amongst them if they grow too old to ride. But if you do not marry and do not join the Khaadain the men may fight over you. Unmarried with no father here to speak for you, you could be claimed by any man from any tribe. I can keep you safe within my tribe, but we would have to leave the Khaadain if another tribe appeared to ensure no man forced you into his bed.” Temullgei’s words had the desired warning. You shiver at the thought of what might happen to you.

“So I need to choose a husband, or become a nun…” This is the first time that being an Angel to these people has had a downside. You like neither option.

“What is a nun?” he asks when you say no more. You chuckle.

“Where I come from, it is someone who devotes herself to a religious belief, never marries and never even has trelair, for her whole life.”

“This is something you will consider?” He raises his eyebrow and you laugh as you realise he didn’t pick up on your sarcasm.

“Very few people wish to become a nun. It would have to be one of my least favourite options. But I also don’t know any of your people well. I’m not sure I could choose a husband right away.” You sigh and shake your head. “Is there really no way I could go home?”

“I know of none.”

“Then how does marriage work with your people? Your men can take many wives?”

“Yes, although a man with more than one wife must treat all kind and provide for all. We often have more women than men and it ensures all are protected.”

“So my husband would protect me?”

He nods and sits up a little, not taking his eyes off you.

“What is expected of a wife?” you ask, wary that their answer isn’t likely to be one you like. The culture around you is primitive compared to your home and you have heard the horror stories of how women were treated in the past. As Temullgei sat up your fears grew worse.

“It depends on the husband. If she is married to a Khaad, she is expected to take responsibility for the tribe as well as the Khaad, especially the other women. If the husband has no slaves she is the cook and does many other tasks, but you will not have to worry about that. All the men who make an offer to you will have plenty of slaves.”

“Anything else?” you ask, prodding for more information. He looks thoughtful for a moment.

“You will hopefully bear children. It is a great honour in our culture to be a descendant of an Angel. Most Khaads are.”

“And what about trelair?” At this question of yours he furrows his brow.

“Of course it is expected. How else would you bear children?”

“I mean. Could I say no to my husband if he wants trelair?”

“Why would you want to refuse trelair?”

“Where I come from, if a wife wants to, she can say no. That way the husband cannot hurt her or abuse her.”

“Ah, you are worried about being hurt in this way?” he asks as understanding finally dawns on him. You nod. “Some men will hurt a wife in this way, but few. Most understand it does not lead to a happy marriage.”

“But a wife can’t say no if her husband is hurting her?”

He shakes his head.

“But many men will not do this. I would not hurt… my wife.” The pause in his sentence makes you glance at him. It seemed a lot like he was going to tell you that he wouldn’t hurt you, but changed his mind part way through the sentence.

“How many days until we arrive?”

“Less than two.”

“And my options once there, are either to marry someone I don’t know, or become a nun?”

“There is another option. We know each other a little more and I would be able to keep you safe as my wife.”

“Are you asking me to marry you?”

He nods and smiles.

What do you do?

Say yes.

Say no.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

 

The Dog Hunters: A Review

I was gifted a copy of this ebook by the author, David Bell, in return for a review.

When I read the prologue of this (told from the point of view of the dog) I wasn’t expecting this to be 100% serious and adult, but that’s normally fine. I like a good laugh as well as the next and I love dogs so no issues there.

The plot in general is a pretty interesting one and I didn’t have any problem with that side of things. It’s a pretty awesome medievil sort of adventure story that spans a big part of the globe. I also thought, for the most part, that the characterisation was pretty good. A few of the characters were a little cardboard cut out ish, especially the bad guys, but it could have been a lot worse.

I did find myself jarred out of the story a few times though. I don’t know whether it was because the target audience was younger kids or not, but there was the occasional historical oddity, where I was a bit unsure whether something existed back then, especially a reference to a curriculum vitae.

I also found there were a lot of references to bodily fluids of all sorts of kinds (mostly vomit and crap) and while I found this amusing once or twice, felt it was over done how many times someone got covered in one or the other or ended up with a mouthful of someone elses. I don’t know if it is because I wasn’t the target audience, but I’m not a squeamish girl and got up to all sorts of mischief with my brothers so I’m thinking even for most kids it would be a bit much.

Finally, the thing that most ticked me off about this book was the ending. It didn’t end, it just stopped while the main characters were in the middle of a disaster. Then there was an epilogue by the dog where we’re told there’s more to come in the form of another book. This seems to be a trend in indie publishing and I really really really hate it! Seriously, if you’re story isn’t finished don’t publish the fricking book! I don’t get the logic behind putting out a half finished book, especially when being indie means you don’t have to fit within the word count guidelines of a publisher.

I’d rather have an epic to read than get to the end of a story and find I either have to wait or pay more money just to continue. In those circumstances I usually refuse to buy any more books by that author on principle. I don’t mind a bit of a cliffhanger in a series, where the over arching plot isn’t entirely finished with, but the beginning hook of the book should be satisfied, the adventure that begins should at least be at a good stopping point, like a safe place, the destination (even if more adventures happen at the destination). There should be some satisfaction.

As such I find I can’t really recommend this book, which is a shame, because it’s not badly written and I think a lot of younger male readers will enjoy it, but wait until more books are out, or the series is finished before starting.

Social Media: A Distraction

This is a topic that’s been well re-hashed but it’s not something that particularly bothered me. For the most part facebook and twitter was something I could regularly come and go from without much of a problem, but lately I’ve noticed a bit of a change.

I’ve noticed that writing at home five days a week often leaves my extroverted nature feeling a little lonely. Normally when I had this problem I would go write in my favourite cafe for a few hours and be amongst the people there even if I didn’t interact massively (It was almost guaranteed someone I knew would be there or appear after a few hours) I would usually feel a little better.

Since I moved house and out of the immediate vicinity of Bath I’ve not found anywhere quite like my old cafe and as such I often spend all week writing at home (It’s also a lot cheaper). This has led to me seeking some sort of social support from facebook and twitter and while this sort of works, this actually mostly makes me feel lonelier in the long run.

I may post something and get a few comments relatively quickly that I can reply to and feel a brief spark of connection with someone, but it doesn’t last long as people have things to do. And even worse, posting something and having it slip into the oblivion of facebooks ‘what we think you really want to see’ algorithim (it happens a lot more than you’d think). As a result I find myself reaching even more for my phone or tablet to check facebook in a cycle of feeling lonely, reach out on social media, feel even worse, try again. Rinse and Repeat and get so little work done you also feel bad about that.

While I say this, I also have to admit facebook and twitter can be amazing. Facebooks groups, especially are great for finding people like you to talk to and get advice from and I can’t count the number of awesome people I’ve found through retweets on twitter. They can be great, but they need to be approached with caution.

The Book Thief: A Review

This book was recommended to me several times and I noticed it had been made into a film so I grabbed it and had a read.

To start with I felt the book was a little gimmicky with it being narrated by death, but it grew on me and the personality applied to death was very welcome humour to what could otherwise have been a very depressing story.

In terms of storytelling there was a lot I know teachers of writing would have frowned on and a part of my delight in the book was that so many of the writing ‘rules’ were broken. Plot was spoilt by the narrator on several occasions. We were told almost meaningless facts and stories that appeared to have no point, but it worked.

The characterisation the book was superb. Everything felt a little larger than life but it still worked and it was impressively consistent in it’s almost absurdity. I also loved death’s obsession with colour and it led to some of my favourite quotes from the whole book. ‘It [The light] was all the fabric of the curtains allowed. If you’re optomistic, think of it as bronze.

I found myself very touched by moments in the story, especially as it was told from the very innocent eyes of a child within Nazi Germany. So many of these sorts of stories are told from our point of view – The British – who must face the evil of Hitler and be brave, and while this story held to Hitler being evil and often his most violent supporters, it showed the humanity in the every day Germans. They were people who, just like us, wanted to survive, and had to do what they could and make decisions based on the little information their government allowed them to have.

All in all a pretty amazing look at a tough subject, that made me laugh aloud, mostly at its cleverness, but occasionally at its absurdity.

Angel of the Sands: Part 6

His boldness at kissing you takes you by surprise. In response you go to slap him, but he catches your wrist before you can imprint your palm across his cheek. His grip tightens around your waist, pinning you still and making you think twice about trying to hit him with the other hand.

His eyes blaze before calming. After a few seconds he chuckles.

“You have fire in you, Angel. He lets you go and strokes your cheek one last time. “One day, perhaps.”

Without another word he leaves you alone in your tent again. This time you know it would be better to sleep and get into the fur covered bed. Only a few seconds later you’re oblivious to the world around you, deep in dreams of home.

***

The gentle shake from the serving girl of the day before wakes you from your slumber. She has breakfast and gives you a few minutes to eat while she lays your clothes out. As soon as you push the bowls of fruit and oats away from you she hurries over to clean you up and help you dress.

Once you’re wearing one of the dresses you were given the day before, she beckons you to follow her out of the tent. As soon as you step out of the opening you notice the hustle and bustle around you. Almost all the tents are in heaps of material on the ground and many of the warriors you saw the night before are on their horses, preparing to ride off.

A few metres away, resting on several wooden crates is the litter you were carried in. Your servant ushers you over to it and pulls back the light material for you to climb inside. She follows and moves the cushions to prop you in a sitting position. With that done she takes a skin of water and several platters of fruit from a pair of feminine hands outside and arranges them within reach around you.

After smiling and nodding at you she leaves and pulls the material over to cover you from the already fierce sun. Less than a minute later you feel the familiar swaying of your litter being carried along.

The heat combined with the rocking motion makes you feel drowsy and you sleep away most of the morning, eating and drinking in between naps. While the midday sun beats down upon you from on high, you start to grow unpleasantly hot. You consider pushing back the opening to try and create a small breeze but the tribe stops around you and shelters against the sun quickly form while you sit near the edge of your litter and watch.

You’re then escorted by your serving girl and a couple of younger girls you recognise from the evening before and are taken to a small cushioned area shaded by a small oasis of trees. You sit and are helped to get comfortable. Shortly after two of the girls use fronds of leaf to fan you with breeze.

Nearby Khaad Temullgei hands his horses reigns over to another male rider and converses with a small band of men that often linger near him. Before you look away he glances in your direction and notices you staring. Instantly he stops what he was doing and strides over to you. The men follow, many of them staring at you with stony silence.

As Temullgei gets closer you have to tilt your head back further and further to look up at his face and the sun almost blinds you, forcing you to squint.

“I hope you are comfortable, Angel.” Temullgei says as he sits beside you.

As if dismissed the rest of the men relax and find places to sit around you. Other women and girls rush up to fan them as well. When you turn back to the Khaad you realise he has been staring at you.

“These men are my battle brothers. We have fought together many times and they would die for me. They will protect you as well,” he explains before you can ask. For some reason you don’t feel particularly comforted. A chill runs up your spine despite the sweat on your skin.

He ignores your reaction and leans back beside you, supported by the cushions. You remain upright, watching the slow movements of the people around you.

“Sleep, Angel. It is best in this heat.”

“I have slept too much,” you reply, “All night and most of the morning. I am wide awake now.” He chuckles and you look at him with an eyebrow raised, wondering what amuses him.

“Perhaps you would feel tired now if you had accepted my offer last night.”

As the meaning of his words dawn on you a blush creeps into your cheeks. He laughs more.

“Relax, Angel. I may be the first to take an interest in you but I will not be the last. It is often the way of our people, but I will sleep now, even if you will not. Perhaps you will watch over me and bring me pleasant dreams.”

After giving you a smile, he settles back against the cushions and closes his eyes.

What do you do?

Get up and explore.

Stay and watch over him.

Ask him questions about his people.

Kiss him.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is just under 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.