Making It Up as we go along Wed, 14 Feb 2018 09:00:34 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon Wed, 14 Feb 2018 09:00:34 +0000

(Note, Kindle was showing 0.99 yesterday – I think the book is currently in the Amazon valentine sale 🙂 )

I am a sucker for a hard done by book. It’s one of (many) reasons why our house is filled with books – I rescue them from charity shops, adopt them from boxes outside houses (seriously, a house round the corner from us sometimes leaves books outside with a sign saying free) and liberate them from library sale shelves.

That’s where I found my somewhat battered copy of One Small Act of Kindness. I haven’t read a lot of Lucy Dillon books, which is a bit bizarre quite frankly, given how much I enjoyed A Hundred Pieces of Me. (review here) It was because of how much I enjoyed it that I picked this one up, and unusually, started reading it within a couple of days of acquisition, and even more unusually, I’m reviewing it the same day I’ve finished reading it.

You’re bewildered aren’t you? Not nearly as much as I am.

That’s partly because when I posted up on my new book club facebook page (you’ve not seen it? over here…. I share my bookstagram pics and facebook book related giveaways I’ve found, as well as book related posts from here ) that I’d just finished reading it Candi from Oftencalledcathy pointed out it being in the sale. So I thought that getting a review live quickly might mean a few more people would find it while it was cheap.

I daresay it may well be shelved as a romance novel – there’s romance as a thread running through it. But there’s also a much stronger thread of self discovery, identity, friendship and growth. And of course dogs. It wouldn’t be a Lucy Dillon book without dogs really, would it? The most interesting people in it for me are the two main female characters – Libby who has just moved to Longhampton from London to help do up and run her mother in law’s hotel, and the mystery woman she names Pippa who she discovers knocked down in the road outside the hotel. That’s a good starting point for any novel I’d have thought, and this doesn’t disappoint at all. A growing friendship, a couple of relationship mysteries to solve, and a family in dire need of therapy are all untangled gradually over the course of the book, and while I wouldn’t say I couldn’t put it down, I would point out I read it over two guitar school sessions on consecutive days and then finished it at my earliest opportunity the next morning.

Which is pretty close to couldn’t put down, it’s just I have this complicated thing called a family to manage as well.

I also love the centre idea of an act of kindness wall where people leave post its with kindnesses they’ve done. If you’ve any acts of kindness you’d like to bob in the comments I’d love to hear them 🙂 Or if you’ve any great book recommendations to share, I think I might finally be in a reading mood again!

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Winter Storm (The Inventory 4) by Andy Briggs Tue, 13 Feb 2018 17:47:11 +0000 We’ve been reading and enjoying the Inventory series by Andy Briggs since Small reviewed book 1 (read that review here). It seems only fitting that we are taking part in the blog tour for book 4, Winter Storm which finishes the series, and I’m very happy to give you a taster of the book by hosting an extract – read on to enjoy Chapter 1.

Book cover - Inventory 4 Winter Storm showing repeated stylised green figures with circuit board details

“Revolutions start with the tiniest of moments.” Onslow Winter stopped pacing the stage, extended his arms then slowly drew them together until his index fingers were touching. It was a touch of showmanship the technological genius had brought to every presentation over many years. “And we have the most awesome small there is!”

The thousand-strong crowd of technology journalists leaned forward in rapt anticipation like the star-struck fans they were. From the moment Winter had become a telecoms billionaire with the launch of his revolutionary mobile phone, he had been a technology superhero, and fan devotion to him had only grown over the decades. Even his wrinkles and saggy jowls had become trendy.Every event at Winter Tech was like a pop concert, and secrecy about each new project launch was absolute.

“With our revolutionary nanotechnology, we will reinvent how we invent!”

The lights in the auditorium dimmed. A single spotlight stabbed down centre stage as Winter gestured to a box on the floor, one that the audience had assumed was a speaker. It started to change shape, extending into a vertical column like a hundred years’ tree growth in time-lapse. As it stretched two metres tall, the audience oohed in appreciation, then burst into applause. Winter waved his hand to encourage them to keep going.

“Nanobots. You’ve all heard of them before. Some of you have seen them. Tiny mechanical robots that can work together for a greater task. But these. . .” He paused for a moment to admire the black monolith that had formed onstage. It was so matt black that it seemed to suck the illumination from the spotlights pointed at it. “These are something else. They are not tiny robots. No. What you are looking at are the first bio-bots. Like you, like me, this column is built of living components, each a millimetre long, that have been engineered into a
programmable living swarm.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as the assembled crowd tried to work out what he meant. That was the trouble with being Onslow Winter: his mind worked far ahead of most people’s. The corners of his mouth twisted into a smile as gasps of astonishment slowly rippled through the crowd as the audience began to understand.

“It’s something more than a robot or a cyborg. Capable of adapting to its environment and shaping itself with almost limitless possibilities! It’s a living bioborg. I call it Winter Storm.”

With that, the smooth monolith suddenly whirled like a tornado, with a sound like a billion marbles clattering together, before finally taking the shape of a towering arm that pivoted and waved at the crowd. By now the applause was deafening. People had taken to stomping their feet on the floor in admiration.

Still the whirlwind turned – and the resulting construction made everybody freeze in silence. It was a seven-foot-tall humanoid. A matt-black robot formed of smooth contours. The head was in the shape of a sleek futuristic biker’s helmet. Although it was featureless, people felt their skin prickle as the head turned side to side to study them. The lack of eyes didn’t mean they couldn’t feel the living machine’s gaze bore into them.

With a soft clump that sounded like it was walking on bubble wrap, the humanoid stepped forward – then raised its fist in triumph.

On cue, the crowd went wild with cheers and thunderous clapping. The applause was so loud that it almost drowned out the explosion above them.

A circular section of ceiling blew away in a shower of smoke and plaster dust. People began scrambling for the exits, only to find them blocked by menacing thugs wearing body armour, their faces concealed behind black plastic shields like hockey masks. They wielded peculiar rifles with a white central chamber from which a faint mist steadily poured. With a twitch of the trigger, one of the men shot a blast of frigid air across those nearest him, immediately encasing them in ice.

“Do not panic,” boomed a voice from above, and a figure slowly descended from the hole in the roof. There was a faint whirl from the antigravity boots he wore as they carried him to the stage, where a shocked Winter stood. “You will not be harmed.”

The frozen people suddenly shattered into countless ice shards. The villain sighed and gestured to the broken pieces.

“Correction. Nobody else will be harmed if you just cooperate.”

Onslow Winter was nothing if not a performer. With the frightened eyes of hundreds of people on him, he raised himself to his full height and approached the newcomer. Behind him, the Winter Storm humanoid mirrored his stance, acting as a towering bodyguard. Winter stared at the figure’s eyes, which were white, with no pupils. They were unnerving, to say the least.

“Onslow Winter, I am here for your wonderful Winter Storm.” The newcomer gestured to the humanoid. “Hand it over, or I will freeze your adoring fans, one by one.” He gestured to the audience.

Winter licked his dry lips and finally found his voice. “Wh-who are you?”

“I am your biggest fan.” The figure’s smile was absent of humour. “But you may call me the Collector.”


You’re hooked aren’t you? Just in case you want a tiny bit more, here’s the blurb:

In the fourth and final book of this gripping series, all the Inventory’s secrets are revealed.

Having learned a troubling truth about himself in the Black Zone of the Inventory, Dev is called back into action to defend the world’s greatest store of futuristic tech – and he’ll need all the help he can get from his friends. The Collector is back and as menacing as ever, and now he’s stolen Winter Storm, a swarm of powerful biobots, which he is using to infect and control people. Who can be trusted now?

Now I’ve got you 🙂 I guess you’ll want to know a little more about the practicalities. The book came out on 1st February, and is available from Amazon here (affiliate link) as well as other bookshops. The cover (up top) fits beautifully into the rest of the series, which shiny green writing and a futuristic picture (they really look great together on a shelf).

And don’t forget to check out the other posts on the blog tour. blog tour banner listing stops

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Force of Nature by Jane Harper Mon, 05 Feb 2018 09:00:28 +0000

Buy at Amazon I absolutely loved The Dry by Jane Harper when I read it last year (review here ) so I was thrilled to be offered Force of Nature to read as well.

There is always a moment of trepidation when you face up to reading a sequel to a well loved book, particularly when said book was a debut. Can the author really keep the flow, will the sequel be a let down, should you just stick with reading the one?

However, I’m happy to report that book two is absolutely as good as book one. Just as immersive, although a little different in style. Again there are multiple time lines, but the past time line is only a few days ago, and takes you slowly through Alice Russell’s disappearance. The present line rides with Aaron Falk again – if you haven’t read The Dry and made his acquaintance, while it’s not necessary to understand this book, I’d highly recommend you give yourself that treat as well.

Falk is a great character. He’s not your classic criminal detective, but instead a Federal Agent in the financial investigative unit. It appears that financial investigation doesn’t necessarily stay in the office the way you might expect. In this case they end up out in the bush as Alice disappeared on a team building exercise right in the middle of the territory of a serial killer from 25 years back.

The tag line on my proof copy says “Where did Alice Russell go?” It’s a good question.

I’m not going to go any further into the story – what I’ve shared so far is spoiler free. But there’s a lot going on in all these people’s lives, and you are going to find out all about them, and their offspring. You’re also going to get to spend a fair bit of time stumbling around the bush, and discovering what happens when a group of people sent out to build a team are up against the force of nature.

Force of Nature is available now on kindle and publishes in hardback on the 8th of February. The Dry is currently (4/02/18) 2.99 on Kindle, which is an absolute bargain to be honest. Enjoy! (And don’t forget to check out the other bloggers taking part in the blog tour.)

What happened to Alice?  Force of Nature blog tour banner

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Dixit – a family card/board game reviewed Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:43:23 +0000

Cover of board game Dixit - square gold box with fantasy style pictures

Buy at Amazon

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we were sent Dixit for our Blogger board game club review last month. (Apologies for the delay in getting this review live, I think I should pop a health update on but basically, long story short, it probably isn’t depression causing my issues, but an underactive thyroid, and along with depression symptom I’ve got shaky hands, which makes typing somewhat hit and miss…) The box is quite luscious, and the pictures on it would not be out of place in a fantastical picture book, which isn’t usually how board games go.

Open the box up and the surreal continues.

Dixit cards and pieces

You have a set of 84 cards with the wonderful wordless fantasy images on, some wooden rabbit playing pieces, and a set of voting cards per player.

Each player starts with a hand of cards. The first to play chooses a card to describe and lays it on the table, with a story in a sentence. This should describe the card, but not too precisely, as each other player has to choose one of their cards that could illustrate what was said, and pass it face down to the storyteller. The cards are shuffled, and then laid face up on the table. Then the players who didn’t tell the story place a counter facedown to vote for the story. Points are then given depending on how many votes the storyteller got – if everyone votes for their picture, they don’t get any points. Otherwise they get a certain number, and each player whose card was voted for gets points as well. The rabbits hop around the course on the board in the box to keep track and that’s the game.

Sorry, it sounds ridiculously complicated, it did take us a couple of hands to get used to, but the fun of this game isn’t in the competition. It’s in thinking up ways to describe the cards, and I know I’m not going to be able to get across to you how utterly gorgeous they really are. They are also quite gloriously bizarre and a little bit spooky, and very very lovely.

The game was a huge hit here, and then Tim took it round to his family on Christmas day and it was loved there too. You don’t have to worry that you might get to know the cards too well – you can buy different sets if you feel like that is happening. I’m kind of tempted to do that anyway.

We were sent a puzzle for review as well, but I haven’t taken pictures of that yet (taking pictures is another problem with shaking hands) so I’ll hope to be back with that later in the week.

Now I’m going to finish this review with something I don’t often do, which is ask for your help. Because of the somewhat complicated health issues I’ve got at the moment, I’m not managing to put much time or effort into blogging, or sharing and it is affecting my blog visibility horribly, so if you can see your way to help me out with a share or a comment, I would be incredibly grateful. Thank you!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Twelve nights by Andrew Zurcher – cover reveal and giveaway! Sat, 06 Jan 2018 13:20:27 +0000 Note, post contains affiliate links.

book cover for Twelve Nights - dark blue night sky with stars, old fashioned hot air balloon, figures in the basket are silhouetted against the full moonPre order at Amazon

Kay and her little sister, Eloise, never imagined that their standard icy Christmas Eve in Cambridge would be the start of a twelve-night odyssey . . .

Kay’s father is working late – as usual. Fed up, her mother bundles her daughters into the car and drives to her husband’s Cambridge college to collect him herself. But when they arrive, the staff claim that nobody by his name has ever worked there . . .

Kay is puzzled by her mother’s reaction – silent tears, not anger and confusion. And what is even more puzzling is the card on her pillow when they return home:

Will O. de Wisp, Gent. F.H.S.P. and Phillip R. T. Gibbet, Gent. F.H.S.P. K.Bith. REMOVALS.

That night, Kay is woken by voices at her window: the voices of Will and Phillip, the Removers. But they are not human. And Kay shouldn’t be able to see them. Except she can . . .

I love getting my reading year off to a magical start, and Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher has all the right ingredients to do this. (I confess I haven’t read beyond the first chapter yet, but that was intriguing…) I was very happy to be involved in the cover reveal on twitter (although I’m embarrassed to admit that I forgot to ask who the cover illustrator is when I was dealing with the emails on my phone, so I can’t share that. Will add in when I track them down!) The book is available for pre order on Amazon (and I’m sure other bookshops) and is due out April 5th 2018.

I’m also very happy to be giving away what was described to me as a ‘lovely bespoke, wrapped copy’ of the book – entry through the rafflecopter widget below. The very best of luck to you all. (Full terms and conditions in the widget, but be aware that giveaway is limited to to 18+ with UK addresses, and prize will be sent direct from the publisher.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The stories untold. Sun, 31 Dec 2017 22:44:56 +0000 I’ve been absent from the blog while I’ve been trying to deal with some stuff.

I think it’s getting better, but to be honest, it’s always difficult to make that kind of judgement about yourself.

Anyway, I’m making a note today for myself rather than anyone else.

This wasn’t because of I did or didn’t do. I’ve been creative, active, taken my vitamins. I know about depression. I’ve danced this dance before.

Sometimes I make my own way out of this. And sometimes I need a bit more help.

That’s not a weakness. It’s just the way it is.

See you next year.

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Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller Tue, 07 Nov 2017 16:59:42 +0000
Otherworld – the game is compulsively playable. The book is compulsively readable. Utterly immersive, with a story that rocks along despite its main character striving to be unlikeable. He’s not fond of himself, and doesn’t see why anyone else would feel otherwise.

Give it a try, but make sure you’ve plenty of time. Once you stop, you won’t want to start.

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller - affiliate link to Amazon
Buy at Amazon

Are you ready to play?

There are no screens. There are no controls.

You don’t just see and hear it—you taste, smell, and touch it too.

In this new reality there are no rules to follow, no laws to break.

You can indulge your every desire.

Why would you ever want to leave?

Step into Otherworld.

Leave your body behind.


Having read books about gaming before, I was a little blase when I approached Otherworld, expecting more of the same. However, there’s a reason these are bestselling authors – they are very very good at what they do. Otherworld is beautifully constructed, and there’s far more to this book than a story about a gaming system. Layers upon layers of complexity pile up here, with acute insight into human nature, technology and where we could easily be headed if we don’t keep a close eye on ourselves.

On one level this is a fantastic technological adventure with a strong and varied cast (not all teenagers!) and interesting premise. On another there are conspiracy theories galore, just who is behind the experimental developments to the Otherworld system? What is the real purpose of it all? But the conspiracy never overpowers the personal interest or action, and that’s how I like it.

Will appeal to readers of YA SFF, gaming fans and those into their technology I suspect. Well worth a look, and currently a reasonable price on Kindle. My biggest problem is that I’ve got to wait a year for the sequel!

Banner listing stops on blogtour

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:23:32 +0000

I don’t know what I was expecting from Little Fires Everywhere, but what I got was a compulsively readable book, filled with fascinating characters on a slow but inexorable dance towards the disastrous start of the book in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated, and couldn’t wait to see unfold.
Buy at Amazon

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

I absolutely loved this book – although when I read the first page I really didn’t expect to. I don’t generally like books that spoil their own ending as it were, but it turns out there’s so much more to this book than the way it starts (or ends). The characterisation is superb, and the plot unexpected in some places, which scream at the character obvious in other parts. Not that I mean it’s cliched, more that you can see what’s coming before the character does, and you get so invested in them that you want them not to make that bad decision. But they do, and it’s still deliciously well written so you keep on going, hoping against hope it will all turn out for the best in the end.

I’m definitely going to track down and read her other book – if it’s half as good as this I’m in for a real treat.

This post contains affiliate links.

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Wading through autumnal mud Fri, 13 Oct 2017 21:37:13 +0000 On Instagram I wrote:

I don’t know how I manage to forget, every year, that I will slow down and grind to a halt as the seasons change. I will want to hibernate, and eat all the chocolate, and each and every day will be like wading through mud.

I don’t know how I forget that lying in bed doesn’t help, what helps is getting outside and getting active. Challenging myself to take the camera and find a picture that I can be proud of helps. Sharing that picture with a community is good – but then I need to put the device down and *do* rather than falling down the rabbit hole of clicking from site to site.

I know it’s not just me. I know that I can manage this better. I may not be here as much because I need to get all of this under control, but I’ll try to keep up with everyone as best I can.


And then I stopped, because Instagram should be for quick pictures and short thoughts, not woe is me essays. And yet I have far more readers and interaction there than I do here any more, because it’s built around community. (Although a tiny bit of me is wondering what community I could have built here, if I’d put daily work into posting and publicising and how do you publicise a blog without a community around it? I don’t know.)

The rest of the woe is me is around the fact that my shoulder hurts and my hip hurts and apparently I should just build my shoulder up and you have to put in separate referrals for different parts of your body (which doesn’t make any sense to me, surely a body is built up of all the parts together and they interact?) and trying to be active and outdoors is really hard when just walking to the shops hurts.

Woe. Doom. But I bought vitamins and actually took them and now I’m going to bed after doing a drawing and tomorrow I’ll try all over again.

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Saturday snippets 7th October 2017 Sat, 07 Oct 2017 23:59:55 +0000 {watching} The Saint. Not taking itself too seriously, featuring the always excellent Eliza Dushku, and with all the right names and connections. Rather more recommended than I’d expected to be honest. (I’ve a long history with the Saint. It’s rather more boring than it ought to be given the topic.)

{reading} The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I rescued this from a box outside a neighbour’s the other day (there was a sign saying please help yourself, I wasn’t just filching books honest) and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it. (If you want to follow my reading habits I’ve a new bookstagram account where I share books I’ve received for review, found on the street and/or red to the children.)

{exploring} a town a little way up the road. (NotSo)SmallTeen had a recording masterclass today arranged by guitar school and rather than come all the way home then drive all the way out again, I took myself on a photo walk. Which was quite fun, but would have been even better if the cafe I finished at had had cake. How does a cafe not have cake on a Saturday lunchtime?? The coffee was OK though. And I managed to write a whole couple of sentences of book. Yay me. 

{blogging} irregularly again. Which is probably a relief to my handful of regular readers 😉 There aren’t that many of you left out there, and I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be. 

{working} on my art related plans. Slowly. But with a level of determination. 

{decluttering} even more slowly. Did you know some charity shops won’t take magazines any more? Disappointing, these were BBC History magazines, largely unread, and I hate to just recycle them. (Which is why we live in a house over full of stuff.)

(Moon pic to follow)


Big is doing the whole sixth form and working and life plate juggle – we see her is passing, and quite often she’s pretty exhausted. Small is beginning to get the hang of college, and Japanese is great, so that’s good. Oh, and his Coldplay album finally arrived. Smallest and Tigerboy had a good trip to softplay – Smallest even tried skating again. (She didn’t like it.)  She has plans to start a book blog, and I’m wondering about tracking down some sort of group activity for Tigerboy – I think he’s still too young for Beavers though and I’m not sure what else there is. 

So,there you go, all updated.

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