Book review: Chosen by Denise Grover Swank

 

Ridley: I was in the mood for a book, so I went browsing through Amazon on my laptop. This can  always be dangerous to my bank balance, I generally have more books I want than sense! (Also does anyone else hate browsing on their Kindle for an e-book? I generally find it online first, then go onto the Kindle and buy it. Otherwise it’s too slow and all that greyness gets very boring, I like seeing all the colourful covers!)

 

Anyway! I stumbled upon Chosen, I read the reviews, (Amazon.com has far more than co.uk by the by.) opened the excerpt for the first few pages, and then I was hooked!

 

I’ve definitely found a nice gem and a future favourite author. Below I’ve done a small review so I can spread the word and let others discover it too! -I love telling people about my new finds! Even if it’s a case a thousand and one people have already found it before me, it’s still my find in my head!! Just like Harry Potter was my find, and Twilight was my find and Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy was my find!! Yes, I know you see a pattern-of fantastic finds by me!! 🙂  

 

So Chosen….

 

The two main characters are complex and wonderfully written. Will, with his dark past and cold ruthlessness and Emma, who has had to deal with her own horrific past events and a life on the run as a single mother.

 

Their encounter happens almost immediately, there are no boring introduction pages ‘setting the scene’. We get right into the action and we are taken on their journey both physically- across country, and emotionally. With such scarring pasts, it’s only natural that each character has to deal with a lot of emotional turmoil, which the author is quite apt at portraying. However, she does not make the mistake of dwelling on this ad infinitum and she is able to show us that while the characters are both scarred deeply, they are also resilient and very strong. 

 

The other, more fun emotional journey is the romance! (always my favourite part!)

 

Will definitely has that bad boy attitude that all us poor suckers fall for. Emma though is feisty enough to handle him. The building passionate relationship between them will have you the edge of your seat. Not to mention all of the thrilling gunfights and car chases.

 

Then there’s the creepiness of Emma’s little boy Jake, he’s cute but he’ll give you a bit of a chill too. No child should speak like him and know the things he does! Though I ended up having quite the soft spot for him, creepy or no creepy!

 

The book is ultimately a thriller, based in the ‘real world’, it is not as heavily laced with magic as other novels, there are no magic wielding big bads or magical peoples as such. While the whole story is based on concepts which are inherently paranormal, their use is drip fed throughout the book. Each paranormal event is built one upon the other.

 

In such a realistic landscape, this could have gone very wrong under the typing fingers of a different author but Denise weaves them into the plot extremely well and ensures they’re quite believable.

 

She also keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. The overall mystery and suspense as to why they’re being chased is what really drives you forward to turn the pages, wondering and hoping the answer will be in the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter.

 

It’s the sort of book that you finish in a day (which I did!) and then go purchase the sequel Hunted (which I’m about to do!)

 

So if you want a good read that will keep you snuggled up on your couch till your bum is numb and your tea is cold then pop on over to Amazon and check Denise Grover Swank’s books out. 

 

Alternatively check out Denise’s blog here!

Happy reading!

 

 

Harry Potter and my childhood.

Ridley: Like many people in their mid-twenties, I grew up with Harry Potter. For 12 years, as each book and film was produced, I was there ready and waiting! It was a sad and jubilant moment when the last film was finally released.

Why do I chat about this now? Because J.K Rowling has returned! She’s announced she has a new adult novel coming out. With so many children, who were her original fans, now fully grown up, I’m in little doubt that this new book will do well. Beyond well. I know already I’ll buy it, even if it was about dirty dishwater I’d still get it. I know it’ll be interesting, though I haven’t a clue what it’s about or even what it looks like (don’t judge a book by its cover unfortunately is a saying ignored by me, not deliberately, it’s just what happens. The more interesting/striking the cover, the more likely it is I will pick it up and ultimately buy it) As it is with J.K’s new book there are only rumours that it could be a crime novel.

I was trying to imagine yesterday what the pressure being heaped upon her must feel like. There are some enormous, ridiculous expectations that she has to live up to. I just wonder how you can sit down in front of your laptop and just type, knowing that’s all there, that it won’t go away. Surely it’s given some sleepless nights. At some point though, I think you’d have to just say, ‘feck it, I’ll write for me’ and just go for it. It’s what she did for her other books before this and it seemed to work!

Of course, some of her biggest fans want this to be another HP phenomenon. I say some fans, because there are those of us who wish we could tell her we just expect a good entertaining read, her books don’t need to change the world every time. Her critics, of course, want it to be a flop, for her to fail, so they can say I told you so. But we’ll all just ignore them.

Either way, she’s a fantastic writer, her words enthral you, even listening to her Harvard commencement speech was amazing. 

So…I can’t wait!! 🙂

After hearing this news, I also started to remember where it all began, I believe we each have our own stories to how we ‘discovered’ Harry Potter in the first place. 

My start with reading the series was far from auspicious. I was thirteen, still in primary school when Harry made his first appearance. A younger sister of a friend ran up brandishing the Philosopher’s Stone in my face, insisting it was ‘the best book she’d ever read’. I turned it over to read the blurb and saw ‘boy is rescued by an owl’. All I thought was ‘no thanks, I don’t want to read a kiddies book about giant owls.’

Even to this day I still shake my head in despair.

It wasn’t until a few months later, during the summer time, that I came across the book again. My parents brought home a treat for both my brother and I.

My mother who always worried that he wasn’t reading enough (no fear of that with me!) bought him Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For me she brought back a tape with the song ‘Kiss me’ by Sixpence None the Richer on it. (I loved it. To this day when I hear that song, these memories still come flooding back to me.)

My brother ignored the book. It took me two days before I was bored enough to go hunting for it. I had finished all of my own books and wanted something else to read. I found Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone abandoned on the floor in my brother’s bedroom. (on the floor!!) I settled down into the living room, legs dangling over the armrest with a cup of tea. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. It was a child’s book after all…little did I know!

I flew through it.

I bought the second book that same day. I cajoled my father into giving me a lift into town where I used my allowance money. My parents cautioned me to ‘make it last’ and not to read it too fast.

I didn’t listen.

I finished the Chamber of Secrets also within hours.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had just been published that summer. I had no more money left, I remember painstakingly counting out the exact change in copper coins, penny by penny, to be able to buy it.

I had to wait a day this time. It was excruciating.

The next morning, along with an indulgent fatherly smile, another lift was provided. When I got into town, I remember it was almost deserted. I can’t remember why, it was possibly only due to the horrific weather. The day was dark grey, overcast, it had been raining heavily all morning.

When I arrived at the bookshop, the lights were glaring, harsh on the eyes compared to outside and the yellow wooden floor was so bright.

I paused just inside. It was also very quiet, a fan whirled gently just above the door. I felt a small cool waft of air along my arms. The shop was empty. A single sales assistance stood behind the till, watching me. In my wet shoes I squeaked my way straight across to the stand where the book was on display. I twirled around, clutching it to my chest and I stuck out my fist, it was full of pennies. I dropped them into the girl’s joined hands with a muttered apology.

I almost ran from the shop. When I got home, it was read as quickly as the last ones.

Then I had to wait for a year. Reading and rereading the Prisoner of Azkaban. Twiddling my thumbs like a loon. It was agony waiting for Book 4. The night before it was published, I couldn’t sleep. I was listening to the radio, they were reporting on the hundreds of people that turned up for the Harry Potter midnight party in Eason’s in Dublin. I remember thinking the people that were up there were so lucky to have  gotten the book already. (little did I know, my own local bookshop opened with a party that night too!) 

It was after the 4th book came out, that it really felt like the rest of the world sat up and took notice. It was popular and then some. The parties, events, they all just got bigger as time went on, then the movies happened.

Soon everyone else loved Harry Potter too.

It was my first ever experience of wanting a book now. I couldn’t get my hands on the next sequels fast enough.

I darted around the house, telling anyone that would listen to me how fantastic the books were. I suddenly understood why that little girl had run up to me all those months ago, waving the book around. Every single one of my friends got the same treatment from me, I introduced them to Harry Potter (I didn’t know Latimer at the time, so she didn’t benefit from my uncontrolled enthusiasm! It was probably just as well, I think together our Harry Potter obsessions would have reached scary supernova levels!)

I still marvel at the fact there are children alive now today that never had that anticipation, that will never have gotten a chance to go to those parties. I can only hope one day there will be a new series that can capture people’s imagination and interests like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books did. That those children can have the fun we did. Perhaps her new books will do it again? We shall see!

For now though, for those of you that were lucky enough to have them, tell me about your Harry Potter discovery stories! You too Latimer, when did you flick open that first page of the Philosopher’s Stone and join the HP world?

Happy Stomach Exploding Day!

Ridley: Or as it’s more commonly known by everyone else, Pancake Tuesday!

After Christmas and before Easter it’s my favourite ever food day! Where you eat and eat the same delicious thing until it really does feel like your stomach could burst-no fast movements now!

It never ceases to amaze me how many different ways people can eat them really, the various toppings, sauces, foods and things that are put on pancakes here.

1. Lyle’s Golden syrup from the tin (or lions as I always end up calling it) is the most popular topping here. So much so when we popped to the shop after realising we were completely out of it at home, we found out so were the three big supermarkets in town! Not a single tin was left on the shelf! We were disappointed to say the least (and no, it didn’t matter that we already had lemon juice, Nutella, ice cream and strawberries to choose from! What are you the toppings police?)

Lyle’s is the proper topping to use in my opinion. It’s sweet, gooey and thick. We tried Maple syrup before, while that was okay, it seemed almost runny compared to the Lyle’s, we weren’t converted!

2. Nutella is another popular option; Ferrero Rocher centre in a jar! There is a restaurant called Lemon is Dublin that do these particularly well (not that there’s much skill in putting chocolate spread on a crepe in my eyes, for me you’ll get it right if it’s lathered on, nice and thick!) This option always feels European to me and kind of Christmas-y. Mainly because I’ve been to both Germany and Italy around Christmas and there’s always some little street vendor selling hot Nutella crepes. Gorgeous! Especially if it’s a cold day!

3. Lemon and sugar is old school. What parents and grandparents will favour if they’re not into the ole Lyle’s golden. Sweet and sour! They’ll squeeze lemon juice all over the pancake, sprinkle it with white sugar and eat it happily. Seems a bit bland and unexciting to me, but to each their own!

4. Ice Cream and a hot pancake, says it all. There are numerous options, it could be plain vanilla or an exciting Ben&Jerry’s combo. There could also be sprinkles or chocolate sauce involved in this one. Adding ice cream is generally for the people who like to indulge. They’re the Nutella crepe eaters taking it that one step further. Hats off to them!

5. Fruit for the slightly healthier pancake eaters, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, you name it and I’m sure someone’s eating it!

6. Butter was another option I heard today. While the reaction to that was generally a disgusted ‘Eww’ and it doesn’t seem to be at all that popular, it must be a topping somewhere. Notice all the pancakes that pop up on google images when you search, there’s a nob of butter on most of them. Though I’ve never had butter and pancakes in my life! 

7. Then there’s the savoury options, of which there are loads! Adding in sausages, chicken, beef, cheese and mushroom, stir fry. The list is endless and just depends on the taste buds, who are your buddies!

It doesn’t matter what you layer them up with though, pancake’s are the tastiest of foods! If anyone remembers Sabrina the Teenage witch, they even had an episode where people were addicted to pancakes in ‘the other realm!’ It was a problem

So the one question I leave you with as this years flour-y pancake Tuesday draws to a close, how do you eat yours?

Post for post sake

(Ridley) I’m determined to keep blogging. Even if it means half the blogs are meaningless, make no sense what so ever and only Latimer reads them! Poor Latimer whose up to her eyes in work. Me though, I’ve been off for a few days, so I’ve been working away on our website, trying to get it up and running. It’s not published yet and I fecked up with the domain name. I bought it, applied the name to one web hosting site (didn’t try it out first), I ended up hating the site and now I’ve to wait 60 days to be able to use my domain anywhere else.

After a load of hopping round to different providers, I decided to use free web host provider weebly.com. It’s definitely not exactly what I was after, but I just needed to choose, it took me ages to decide as it was.

The reason? I was searching for a website host provider with a good website builder. Back in the day, when I was much younger, I created a website with geocities. I have to say for a free web hoster and web builder, they were fantastic. So many websites online at the time were build with them. There were numerous geocities web rings, connecting websites together. It was like you were allowed to add an unlimited number of pages. There were drag and drop options and you could also add in some html, whether you wanted purely basic or complicated, it supported both.

I’ve yet to find one as good actually.

Even with searching on google, weebly was really the only one properly mentioned. Most other websites are either too restrictive, they’re really fancy in appearance, but you have no options but the template they’re giving you and maybe you can add in a text box or two. You can’t really change the banner or move the column over just by dragging or do anything really. It’s so frustrating!

And then the ones where you’ve total freedom, are beyond complicated for a html novice. Geocities was that perfect middle ground.

On that website, I had guestbook applications and even my own personal chat room. It took hours, but I loved making that site.

Like most sites at the time, it was a Harry Potter fansite. I was quite proud of it actually, I was only around 13/14 years old. I worked on it during the summers of 1999/2000. I even taught myself a little html so I had ‘Welcome to my Harry Potter website’ scrolling across the top of the main page. (Then I subsequently used what I learned to create a great shop-with music- on neopets.com, I joined when they first started up also that summer! I was on it for a little while, then forgot my password, I’d given a fake birth date, didn’t remember any of my pets names and then got told last year my account was going to be deleted. Oh the frustrating helplessness. Imagine the appreciation value on my shop items and I’m convinced I had loads of neopoints left….I suppose it’s just as well I got locked out of it….though my poor virtual pets…)

Anyway, for my website I even managed to have a free web diversion, so that I didn’t have to use the geocities website address along with my username, it became a ‘proper’ site. I could type in http://www.harrypotter.n3 and then be diverted to my site.

At the time we had corel print house on our Gateway computer, so I got about making things; a home page banner (that took ages to load when you opened the page), little owl page dividers, a background (magnolia coloured page with a purple wavy strip and yellow stars for a border) and wands as icons for the different menu options.  All HP related.

I also designed Harry Potter note paper (I had four different styles), coloured bookmarks. There were paper dolls of Harry, Ron and Hermonie all with extra clothes, that I drew myself. It was all there for anyone to print out and play with.

I tried registering for all the ranking websites. All the really good Harry Potter sites were on them. Most of those ranking sites were also geocities ones or angelfire!

Despite this, I didn’t have many visitors, just one that I know of, though my little counter on the main page went up to 23. Possibly counting my own trips to it mind. I don’t think I worried much about visits though, I made it because I wanted to, it was fun and it was mine. I kept thinking, if I stumbled upon an unknown HP website what else would I love to find?

It was like a little Harry Potter treasure trove.

The one person I know saw it, sent me an email (I had a little owl clip art at the bottom for ‘Owl mail’) All she said was she loved Harry Potter too and she liked my page.

I was never so chuffed in all my life.

It was up for a few years, then Yahoo took over Geocities and they were eventually shut down. My site and all the other bookmarked sites I’d loved were deleted. All that work and I never got to really share it with other Harry Potter fans, who I know would have loved it.

It’s the same with what Latimer and I are doing now. We’ve books we’ve written for us, for our own fun and enjoyment but that we know others will love.

I’m not going to let them be another geocities website, this time people will discover this treasure trove.

Year of the Dragon

(Ridley) It’s the Year of the Dragon! It’s also the Year of M. Latimer Ridley (there were solemn determined nods on New Years eve to back this up I’ll have you know.)

We said 2011 would be our year and sort of the year before that (see the date this blog began on and then was abandoned for months to rust in the tall grasses, that’ll give you an idea…) It’s disappointing that while we tried things to make the year ours-submitted to publishers and competitions-we’ve not been the lucky chosen ones.

But I truly believe this is our year, 2012!

Mainly for two reasons.

One, I’m a little obsessed with dragons, so being the Chinese year that it is, to me that’s A Sign!

I did a school project around….10 years ago now (wow, how time flies and I get old!) I’ve loved dragons since then. I do honestly think it stemmed a little from the Harry Potter fourth book, though I won’t credit it for everything. I liked Flight of Dragons long before J.K put pen to paper! And I loved the song, Puff the Magic Dragon as a child. Though it was the art project that started the obsession properly, I do remember asking myself how I’d get away with doing something ‘harry pottery’, without it being too obvious. So I picked dragons. I made a dragon poster, a dragon mirror and a dragon sculpture. As you can see, after the project was over and submitted, I still hadn’t gotten dragons out of my system so I ended up painting a dragon wall mural around my window. It took around 3 tubes of red acrylic to finish. I still love it.

Also painted on my wall is the poem, Road not Taken by Robert Frost. It’s a poem that speaks quite strongly to me of taking paths that aren’t the most conventional, to throw off the shackles of ‘what’s expected of you’ and do what you love. Make your dreams come true. If you won’t do it, there isn’t anyone else going to do it for you, they’ve their own wishes to make true.

This is where the second reason for believing this is our year comes in. I think I’ve really reached that ‘Ah ha’ moment. I’ve come to realise that you need to get out there and do things for yourself. Nothing in life just happens, there’s no secret magic wave of a wand and suddenly you’re published or famous or rich or unconditionally happy or whatever it is you’re after.

The question is, why do we have to wait on someone else to totally make our dreams come true, why does it have to be an all or nothing thing? Couldn’t we get out there and begin to make it all happen for ourselves? So that ‘Ah ha’ moment, is where I also realise we can actually do this and why the hell not!?

So in ten years time, don’t find yourself disappointed by the things you didn’t do, what is stopping you? Always remember, we’re on this earth to live.

So go live.