Archive for » August, 2014 «

How to Choose a Sweetheart: A Review

I was given a copy of How to Choose a Sweetheart by the author, Nigel Bird, in return for my review.

This has got to be one of the most aptly titled books out there. It’s a very sweet gorgeous story about Max and his journey to get over his ex girlfriend and charm the woman of his dreams.

The whole way through the book was a very real, normal look at life for the average 20-30 ish age adult whose just trying to get through life and find someone to live the highs and lows with. The characters are easy going and quirky without being larger than life and I adored them all.

The plot isn’t the most special going, but the way this is told and seeing it all through Max made it seem like a brand new story and I defintiely didn’t mind that I knew what was going on.

On top of that, the piano teacher, was just plain awesome and was a brilliant sideplot to the main thread.

All in all a brilliant romance with a good bit of real life thrown in.

Angel of the Sands: Part 12

Wanting to enjoy yourself you decide to ignore the Khaadain and motion for the servants nearby to bring you more food and drink instead.

They soon get the meaning of your actions and another platter of spiced, roasted meat is brought to you along with a slightly less ornamental goblet. Within it is a different drink that doesn’t taste quite so alcoholic and bitter but you know it’s still likely to get you drunk if you kick back too much of it.

Another half an hour ticks by and you’re starting to get bored of sitting by yourself when one of the more popular Khaads gets up and comes over to you, leaving his dempair and entire tribe behind. A lull comes over the conversations and background noise although it doesn’t disappear entirely.

After giving you a slight bow he sits near your feet and leans in to talk. You give him your attention and try to ignore the eyes all focused on the pair of you. He has a deep black moustache which frames the top of his mouth and his skin is a little darker than Temullgei’s. He also sits a little taller, but less muscles adorn his bare chest and arms.

“Angel, are you enjoying this feast?” he asks. You nod, not sure you could answer in any other way. “We are blessed to have an Angel among us of such beauty.”

He pauses and gazes at you for a moment. You don’t reply, having heard similar things from Temullgei.

“I hope you have been happy in your short time with us so far?”

Again you nod.

“I understand that Temullgei found you and brought you to the Khaadain. I hope he took great care of you?”

“He did his best,” you finally say.

“I’m sure he did… If you get bored of the feast or wish for a more relaxed atmosphere, I would be honoured to have you visit me for a private audience this evening. I can assure you that my personal gerd is most comfortable.”

“Thank you for the invitation. I will consider the offer.” You smile and he gets up. You realise that everyone around you must have lost interest in watching during that conversation except for Temullgei who looks even more annoyed than he did before.

You wait for a few more minutes, not sure what to do and eventually the Khaadain catch your eye. You watch as they pour more of the previous substance into the same goblet and realise they thought you were wanting the ceremony to end.

A few seconds later they bring the cup to you and place it in your hand. After pausing and taking a deep breath you stand and hold the goblet high one last time. Hoping this will be the last time you ever have to drink the foul stuff you gulp it down again.

A final loud cheer fills the night air when you’re done. You then hand the cup back and begin the slow but welcome walk out of the circle and towards your bed. The tribe men and women part as you come towards them but only enough for you to walk through the gap. As you pass many reach out and stroke your arms and shoulders while a few women even stroke your hair.

At first this makes you feel uncomfortable, but the contact remains gentle and the sea of people parts before you without resistance no matter how deep you get.

You’re just about to decide whether to make your way towards Khaad Benrah’s gerd or your own when he appears to one side of you and takes your arm in his. While smiling at the crowds he gently guides you along towards his tent.

His dempair and servants follow on behind you until you reach his tent. The closest servant holds open the flap for you and you step into the warm insides. A large fire sits in the middle of the largest tent you’ve ever seen, with soft, fur covered cushions. Near that is more food, evidently already prepared by his servants. All the furniture, including the bed is made from ornately carved wood with gemstones laid into it. You’ve never seen so much wealth in one place.

“Come, sit,” he says and guides you to the soft area near the fire. He makes himself comfortable beside you and his servant pours wine into two chalices, almost as ornate as the ceremonial one you drank from earlier.

He hands you one and smiles at you. Without waiting for further instruction his servants all hurry out and you find yourself alone with Benrah.

“I am honoured that you have granted this private audience. I had barely dared to hope that I would get to meet an Angel one day. And here you are.” He smiles, yet again and you hesitate. Being repeatedly praised doesn’t make conversation easy.

“Here I am,” you say, a moment later. He seems to be struggling to get to the point of his request.

“I know this is very bold of me, but I know Khaad Temullgei has already asked you to be his wife, and we barely know each other, but…” Here he pauses and puts his chalice of wine down. You know what is going to come next, but not exactly how it will be phrased. Temullgei did at least warn you that this might happen. “I would like you to consent to be my wife. I won’t lie to you, having you as my wife would make me powerful, but I would take care of you and ensure you’re provided for. I command the largest tribe and would help you unite our people, as the Khaadain predict you will do.”

As Benrah finishes speaking he takes your nearest hand and kisses the back of it, tickling it with the hair from his moustache.

“Will you be my wife?”

Beat Down 1 – Clones: A Review

This ebook is a comedy novella by the author Chris Ward, under the pen name, Michael s. Hunter.

This isn’t a book that you’re meant to take too seriously. The characters have larger than life personalities with sweat that’s bottled and sold to power an energy drink. The main character is also the face of this particular energy drink and some how super human after drinking it.

On top of that, you have his assistant (the guy who collects his sweat), his trainer/agent and a pirate chav with a parrot that says chav at regular intervals through out the story. There’s also the big bad enemy and an annoying brother who works for a bank.

All in all the book had me laughing aloud at several points and I found mmyself having to read lines to the people around me when they noticed me chuckling away to myself. This resulted in one of my companions pulling out his kindle and grabbing a copy too. For a while the amused giggling could be heard from two people in the room.

So if you’re looking for a very funny action book with crazy but hilarious characters, this novella is worth a read.

Cutting out Wheat and Losing Weight

Around christmas time I finally managed to pin down my food problem to wheat. This was brilliant in several ways. Most notably, that I could finally feel totally better, but also because it turned out that cutting wheat out of my diet has led to me shedding the two stone I put on while sick with incredible ease.

At first it proved a rather difficult adjustment. Wheat is in so many things, from sausages to gravy and then the obvious things like bread and cake. It made a huge difference to what I usually ate. A bunch of cereals are completely out and toast isn’t an option, which left me with things like scrambled eggs and mushrooms for breakfast or fruit.

Lunch has become salads or last night left overs reheated, and dinners have probably changed the least. Where wheat used to form my most major carbohydrate I’ve switched it out for rice and potatoes, but for the most part the rest has stayed the same. The free from section of the supermarket has wheat free pasta which helps. I’ve also increased the vegetables to help myself feel full despite the lack of bread.

Since Christmas time, I’ve gone down from being 11 stone (154 pounds for the peeps in the US) to 8 stone 8 (120 pounds). Although I am snacking slightly less (the advantage of not being able to eat cakes or biscuits). I’m still eating raisens and nuts as well as baking cakes and flapjack. There’s an awesome flourless cake recipe here. I’ve made that quite a number of times to solve the no cake problem. I’ve also found wheat free sausages and at my local supermarket the venison and the lamb burgers are made wheat free.

I’ve seen a slight increase in my food bill (veg and fruit are surprisingly more expensive) but over all I’m really pleased that cutting out something to make me feel better has also resulted in me losing the weight I gained while sick, plus a little more that it probably didn’t hurt to lose.

Now I guess I need to go shopping for more clothes. If I was a normal woman that might be a good thing, but I’m not and I’m dreading it.

Girl Fights Back: A Review

This is a free ebook by Jacques Antoine, and is the first in a series of stories about the kick-ass teenager called Emily Kane.

This book starts off a teensy bit on the slow side and has a slightly more omniscient narration style than I’m used to which took me a couple of chapters to get used to, but once I was used to it found myself really enjoying.

Emily was brilliant. I’m not sure there’s any other way to describe her. I adored her completely. She has a tough time of things but she just handles it all brilliantly and is so relaxed.

The story was pretty good too. For a martial arts book it never felt like that was the entire focus which kept it from getting dry, although it does play a major part of the storyline it is just one element in a very well written action plot.

It reminded me a little of the older karate kid films, but more modern and with a female lead. Really glad I picked this book up.

Angel of the Sands: Part 11

After a moment of her staring at you, you nod and then shake your head. She frowns, and raises her eyebrow at your motions.

“I told him I’d marry him yesterday but now I’m not so sure. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

This only deepened the woman’s frown. A second later she encourages you to sit and moves off to talk with the other elders. They mutter together in their own language for a long time, occasionally glancing back at you and you realise that agreeing to marry Temullgei may have been a bigger decision than you first realised.

Eventually the conversation comes to an end and they turn back to face you.

“This is something that normally wouldn’t be allowed. I assume Temullgei announced the betrothal to his tribe?” the eldest says. You nod. “Then we can only ask if he will relinquish his claim to your hand in marriage. Wait here while we do so.”

One of the women leaves and the rest gather around you, bringing bowls of coconut scented water and fresh clothes with them. Over the next hour they clean every inch of you and smother your face with paste, and rinse your hair in several different bowls of scented waters.

When they finish, they help you dress in an elegant gold gown and use sashes and cords to hug the material to every slight curve of your body. They then place a circlet of intertwined strands of mixed metals, designed to look like vines, with leaves of the same golds, and silvers placed in ornamental positions. On the end of each leaf a tiny jewel glinted in the sunlight.

Along with this they placed several similarly styled bracelets and anklets on and finally a large necklace with the biggest blood red diamond that hung against the top of your chest.

Just as the women were making the last few adjustments to your clothing the missing elder comes back. Right behind her is Temullgei. His face is impassive but you can see from the anger in his eyes that he’s not happy.

As your stomach flips over several times the elders all scurry from the room, leaving you along with the Khaad.

“The Khaadain has informed me that you no longer wish to be my wife. Normally, such a request is not granted by the tribal leaders, but you are unused to our ways. If you have truly changed your mind, then I won’t force you to become my wife, but I won’t hold back from expressing my anger and hurt at the lack of respect you’ve shown me.” he says, his tone sharp and clipped but still respectful towards you.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve changed my mind.”

“Very well. I will inform my tribe.” Without another glance at you Temullgei leaves. The Khaadain elders come back inside and its evident from the looks on their faces that they have heard what was said. From that point onwards they speak to you in short sentences and no more smiles cross their faces. A couple don’t even look at you. Although none of them express it, they evidently disapprove of your actions as well.

With your attire finished the eldest of them tells you what little you need to remember for the ceremony. Mostly it involves smiling, waving and accepting gifts. There is a short toast and food will be laid out at your feet most of the afternoon and evening. Then, when it is dark and you are tired, you can stand and leave. No one else will leave until you do.

With these simple instructions you’re sure you can handle what’s expected of you and hopefully regain some of the good favour you appear to have lost.

After taking a deep breath you allow yourself to be ushered back out of the small area you’ve been in for the last couple of hours. With a smile you don’t quite feel plastered to your mouth you walk the short distance to a small seat placed at the top end of the circular area. Already many people are gathered within the circle and around the outside of it, expanding out as far as you can see.

The crescendo of voices almost deafened you as you waved like you’d been told and slowly made your way to your seat. When you reached it a nearby elder came forward. Within her hands was a chalice full of a pale pink liquid. You take it, as you’ve been instructed to and hold the cup aloft. The roar and noise around you grows even louder.

When the crowd has quieted a little you bring it to your lips and take a gulp. Immediately the bitter fruity drink fills your mouth, almost making you gag. Whatever this is, it isn’t something you like, and you have to drink the whole thing.

Focusing on the level of the liquid on the opposite side of the chalice you take gulp after gulp and focus on anything but the taste. Somehow you manage to drink the entire amount but you can feel is sloshing around in your stomach.

With the cup empty the same member of the Khaadain rushes forward and takes it from you. You then take your place in the seat. Glad for the support when your vision blurs slightly. Thoughts slow in your head and you realise the drink must have been an alcohol or narcotic of some kind, perhaps even both.

As the parade of people giving you gifts begins to form you have to force your mind to focus and utter your thanks for each and every one. Many of the people bring you little objects, pretty stones, and ornaments but one or two men come swaggering up to you with slaves bearing armfuls of gifts. They each have many bare-chested men with them and when one steps further forward than the others do he opens his mouth to speak.

“Angel, I am Khaad Benrah. It is an honour to see such a beautiful Angel amongst us once more. If you ever need anything me and my dempair is at your disposal.”

You nod and thank him for the gifts but say nothing else. His words are an eerie echo of Temullgei’s.

Over the next few hours more and more possessions pile up around you, including slaves. Finally, towards the end of the evening you notice Temullgei get up from his seat off to one side. Until now you’ve barely had time to even glance his way but he has your attention now.

Just like the other Khaad, his dempair accompany him towards you but none of them smile and a quiet settles over the watching crowd. News of your recent decision must have travelled amongst the tribes represented.

Despite the stony face that he presents you with he is followed by more slaves bearing gifts. You run your eyes over them, not knowing where else to look. Immediately you can tell that they’re the jewellery and clothes he paraded past you on the first night he met you.

As he retreats back to his seat you can’t help but wonder if the crowds also noticed that his gift was far smaller in number than the showering of possessions from the previous two Khaad. He was understandably still angry. Only a few more people came to you bearing gifts after him and you wondered if the night was finally drawing towards the feasting part.

As the last man bows at you and presents you with what must be your hundredth dress of the day a commotion starts almost directly ahead of you. An entire mass of people push their way through the crowds, trying to get to you. Eventually the spectators part and another Khaad with his dempair, and most of his tribe come up to the edge of the circle.

They bow low at the Khaadain who sat off to one side, and then in your direction while you sit and wait. This Khaad’s tribe looks to be much smaller than the others around him and the members barely take up any space within the circle, but he stands tall and comes towards you. Behind him trail several slave men carrying a large canvas like object between them.

“Khaaheed, for you. A Gerd,” he says as the bring the massive object towards you. He struggles with the words almost as much as they struggle with carrying the heavy object. You think he called you Angel in their language but you can’t be sure, but of all the gifts, he’s given you one you’re the most sure you need. The tent-like canvas these people live in. You give him your most sincere thanks and the warmest smile you’ve been able to muster since the ceremony began.

With every gift laid in a pile and your slaves ushered off to set up your tent for you, the smell of hot food begins to waft your way. You realise that you’re starving and have been for some time. The groggy feeling in your head has barely subsided though and you know there’s more of the drink to come.

Thankfully the food arrives first and you tuck in, trying to ignore the people watching you take your first bites. Once you’ve eaten a little and the trays have been passed you find the tribes turn their attention to food. Feeling less exposed you relax a little, but you remain alone on your pedestal, surveying the people but not among them.

After a couple of hours your slaves return and begin carrying all your gifts to your new home. You wonder if everything is going to fit but you were warned not to reject any gifts and that means your slaves will need to find somewhere to put them. It would have been a lot worse had no one thought to give you a tent of your own. At least it meant you didn’t have to stay with the Khaadain. You would feel safer and more relaxed in your own private dwelling.

Not long after all your gifts have been moved you notice a lull in the noise around you and more people glance your way. The sun has already gone for the day and the stars are starting to shine above the fires and torches that were lit in preparation. You suspect some of the people are now waiting on you to leave.

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.

Skid 2 – Rivals: Cover Reveal

A while back I read and reviewed the very awesome book Skid, by Doug Solter. There’s about to be a sequel out on September 23rd and I get to be part of the big cover reveal fun! So here it is!

You can be pretty sure I’m going to be after a copy of this book as soon as I can get it! For those curious, here’s the blurb:

Eighteen-year-old Samantha Sutton is back for a new racing season in Formula One. The hot new racing star of Wolert Porsche has everything she wants. An awesome team. An awesome car. And the perfect boy. But her optimism sinks when her boss steals arch-rival Emilio Ronaldo away from Ferrari and makes the sexist jerk her team’s premier driver.

Stressing about Emilio, Samantha struggles with her new public life as a teen sports star. Finding time to be the best girlfriend to Manny proves more and more difficult. It also doesn’t help that Manny’s ex-girlfriend Hanna shows up. The girl who was just released from a mental hospital.

The pressure on Samantha becomes unbearable. Paranoia, mistrust, and jealousy take over. She lashes out at everyone as the world seems determined to bring her down.

Can Samantha rise above it all and win the world championship? Or will this be the end of everything?

There’s a handy goodreads linky to add it to the to-read list ahead of the release date and if anyone wants to make sure they don’t miss it, they can subscribe to Doug’s newsletter and claim a free ebook or audiobook file of the first in the series too.

Seriously, if you’ve not read the first one and don’t have a copy yet, do grab it. It is one of the best books I’ve been asked to review to date.

Finally there’s some paper versions up for grabs so be sure to enter into that!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Wonderful World of Origami

Occasionally I decide to be creative in another way. One of these ways is origami, the very ancient Japanease art of paper folding.

As a kid I did a lot of the animal folding, from the very traditional crane to the flapping bird pictured to the left. For a while that was a lot of fun, and then I tried to challenge myself a bit more, making them as small as I could. The bird to the left is only about 2-3cm large and was made with the sweet wrapper from an after-eight.

More recently I’ve been making the more decorative and often more challenging origami, although I also learnt how to make stars in the last few months. There will be plenty of those in my house this Christmas, that’s for sure.

My most favourite recent discovery was Kusudama. Most Kusudama are balls of flowerlike origami pieces that are glued together or sewn together and they date back a long way in the Japanease culture as well. To the right are a couple of examples of these. I’ve not tried the top one, although it looked pretty darn cool and I really might have to, but I made a flower of the bottom type, glueing 5 petals together to make a flower.

With this one I actually think the flowers look better by themselves so I didn’t continue making them, but continued my quest for pretty looking Kusudama.

My next discovery was probably my favourite so far. It turns out that there is also a section of origami called modular origami. The rules of modular origami are simple. No glue, no sewing and all the modules have to be the same basic piece. Now that was an origami challenge I was interested in.

I found the Versailles Kusudama on this site, and I knew I just had to try and make it. There’s a wonderful video tutorial over there with the original designer credited and all that proper sort of stuff that should come with all great artistry. My first attempt is on the right.

This required 60 sheets of paper, all square. The ones I used were 9cm but I’m going to amke it again with much smaller pieces, probably in the 5cm region and also probably thinner as I had a lot of trouble inserting the last flower along the way due to the thickness of the design. Of course if the paper is too thin it won’t hold itself together as well, but I guess that’s part of the fun of testing.

Along the way to making the above I took a photo of the model in its various stages. With the bottom left being each modular shape after folding, then bottom right after curling and finally 5 of those make the flower on the top right of the photo. 12 of those flowers then made the final model above. The curls are what hold this model together so the paper needs to hold the folds well.

I think that’s enough photos for one day, and different models. Next on my mission is making the modular kusudama smaller and working out what other awesome Christmas decorations I can make.