Tuesday, 30 August 2016

#BrokenHomes (Rivers of London 4) Mini Spoiler Free Book Review

Broken Homes is the 4th instalment in the Rivers Of London series following the adventures and investigations of Peter Grant - Detective Constable and budding warlock, working for a special branch of the Met that the rest of the force, excluding his commandeer in chief Nightingale and recently maimed-by-magic co-worker Lesley, tend to avoid talking about wherever possible.

And of course, what these books address so eloquently is the surprising amount that this mystical magical met department is actually needed within the London districts to help tackle crime on another level, specifically incidents concerning gods, spirits, magic, potions and the occult arts in general.

Each of the prequels so far has centred around an investigative theme - the first focussing mainly on the spirit's of the rivers of London; the second on deaths surrounded by London's remerging Jazz music scene, and the third on an entire underground civilisation, as well as a unifying investigation into the Faceless Man.

This time, the investigations focus on the famous 70s brilliantly awful architecture that is the all encompassing high rise flats. The local council are making an effort to have a specific building called 'Skygarden' torn down, but all is not quite as it seems, and Peter and Lesley, accompanied of course by Toby the dog, quickly set up residence within the building to delve into the magical mysteries shrouding it's unique design.

The book does little to shake the structure of the previous entries, but as someone famously said, why fix what ain't broke? It's a gripping read from beginning to end and it almost feels a little more mature a style of writing here, including elements from past books naturally without taking too much focus and creating a very legitimate alternative universe of London town. By this point, character's relationships are already established and I feel that suitably less time is given to these. Yhere is lots of inclusion of historic data however  about the architecture of the buildings (with artistic license, of course) which makes the story even more real, not to mention interesting.

The investigation as a whole feels like more of an investigation, with events only truly heating up towards the end of the book when I felt like the pace dramatically increased all of a sudden. It then finished on an excellent cliff hanger which has made it incredibly difficult to put off reading the next entry whilst I get through some of the backlog of other books I now have mounting up...

So, once again, a positive no-spoiler review for an Aaronovitch novel. I highly recommend (if you haven't done so already) that you go and start this series from Rivers Of London immediately, as they're all unique fantasy detective fiction in their own right, but come together to create something much more. You'll still be reading an absorbing tale without the hindsight of reading the prequels, but it will help cement the believable London that has been created.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

My Break in #Wales

I'm writing this blog from my little room in a little b&b in the little Welsh coast side town of Barmouth, sat at a little writing desk whilst waiting for the folks to for a little bit of an explore.
En route we stopped off at a Steam Railway teashop meets station, and had a lovely time there having lunch and watching the departure and arrival of a steam locomotive. My Dad was very taken with it - I can see him becoming a train watcher of sorts in his grey(er) years.

Lunch was interesting - I had a carrot and coriander soup. It was very tasty, and I'd stocked up on fruit before leaving to help me along with meals. Those who know me know I've been very funny with food and eating stuff. I know I need to not worry - if anything I actually need to gain a little bit of weight (read: padding - sitting on even cushioned seats has become relatively arduous!) but I can't help it when anxiety kicks in.

After lunch and a mooch, we drove a little further, stopping only to take a couple of photos of the rolling hills and epic sight of the estuary - the weather is dry and whilst not particularly warm and sunny, does make from some very dramatic scenery.

Upon reaching the B&B I was impressed with our welcome, and more importantly, the coffee facilities here first of all. Those who know me also know how much love I have for a mug of the black stuff, and we were treated to a nice filter coffee in the lounge before heading up to our rooms where I found yet more filter coffee. Win!

I tried a little bit of a Welsh cake that resembled an Eccles cake upon arriving at the B&B, which tasted divine but the weight of guilt and the worry is hard to control. It's hard to break this habit that has become such an everyday albeit invasive part of my life. But hey ho. I thought I'd blog about not only the sights of Wales but also about how I do with my diet. During this short trip I will be endeavouring to enjoy myself properly - not being silly but occasionally having the odd treat and trying not to let my issues consume me, and hopefully my folks will enjoy themselves too. I'm on what feels like my bazillionth coffee of the day, but typing out my thoughts is already making me feel better.

Well, I'm off to beautify myself for the good of the locals. Talk to you later. MTFBWYA :-)

Okay, so last night after our coffee in the B&B we went for a perusal of Barmouth town and a nose of the sea front. The scenery is epic; sprawling hills creating a dark, contoured contrast to the water of the estuary and sea as the two meet in the harbour. The town is filled with nice looking little shops, coffee outlets and bars/pubs/restaurants.

We went to try and book a table at one pub that had been recommended to my Dad by a work colleague, but the only table they had was a cancellation at six. We decided to stay in town and use this booking for an early tea. I had a few whiskeys (yum!) and I managed to eat out not too unhealthy and without too much guilt. I had a tuna steak with sweet chilli prawns, salad and sweet potato fries. Not too shabby and right up my street really - lots of low fat protein and sweet potato. Win!

We stayed a bit later in to the evening to view the pubs open mic night. This was a very amateur affair but highly entertaining! It would have been nice to play had the line up not already been jam packed, but the locals did a good job of creating some atmosphere and putting on a nice show.
The only downside is that the pub got very full, which would've been fine, but trying to be a restaurant as well wasn't really working for it, and we felt a bit unwanted as we had to vacate our table for the stage and find somewhere else to wait it out until the music started. I ended up propping the bar whilst nursing a Jura and reading my book. Still, there are worse places to do a spot of reading, and I'm glad I've read so much. I'm hoping I can get on to my second holiday read whilst I'm here!

It's morning now, and the bit I'm most looking forward to and most nervous about - BREAKFAST!
I'm going to try and not worry too much - it's not like I'll be having the fry up - just cereal and fruit etc. I just enjoy it so much I sometimes find it difficult to stop in the mornings, which is why I think I like being precise with my measurments back home. Still, I'm doing my pushups and we're likely to do a lot of walking today, so things should be fine. Plus, I'm on holiday! Why shouldn't I relax a bit? Hopefully off to a National Trust property later, unless the sun decides to rear it's shy face and warm the beach up enough for a paddle. Ttyl. Xx

So! Once I'd been for a paper and back and we'd eaten breakfast, where I had muesli and fruit (YUM!) we decided to take a railway journey from Barmouth to Tywn and then on the steam train (with a face named Peter Sam) we travelled to the end of the line, and then back about half way to stop for a coffee and some lunch and a walk around some very picturesque waterfalls. By this point I was starting to get insanely worried about food again, but my dear mother managed to keep me on the straight and narrow. I had a lentil and bacon soup from the coffee shop, which, not only relatively healthy, was also bloody delicious! Win! 

Prior to that I'd gotten a little carried away with my exploring of the area in Bryncrug (according to my phone's geotagging) that surrounded the station. I discovered numerous caves, waterfalls and rocky climbs to ascend. The scenery here is not even tarnished by my feeling incredibly cold (and a little moist once the rain started) and looks like something that could've been lifted from Tolkien's Middle Earth. I'm sure I may even have glimpsed the odd Troll and Dragon. I've missed having a reliable internet signal though, mainly for photo sharing of these lovely scenes, but I'll instagram a few when back at the B&B. The route the first train (though unfortunately not a steam engine) takes, sees it crossing the sea via a very impressive bridge, providing more scenic eye candy. I'd love to live somewhere as dramatic looking as here.

Now i'm washed, typing this and enjoying a nice filter coffee before we make our way to the restaurant we've booked for tonight's meal; a seafood restaurant which looks like it'll suit me down to the ground. We may have viewed the menu yesterday and I'm pretty sure I already know what to have!

Good thing about train journeys as well, is that whilst the stunning scenery passes you by, you're left with a lot of time to do other things, and I've absolutely inhaled my book, A Natural History Of Dragons. It also fits right in with the epic and mountainous scenery, as the fictional Lady Trent's memoirs see her exploring geographically similar terrain in her quest to discover more about the Vystrani Rock-Wyrms. I'm really enjoying the retelling of her experiences which ranges from scientific insights, to tense encounters and social dramas. Riveting stuff.

Anyway, I'm going to answer a few work emails before a quiet whiskey in the bar and then tea! I'll probably write again in the morning. Not sure who will read this but, hey, it's making me feel better about stuff. Stay safe, y'all! Xx

Hello again! So last night we went to a restaurant called The Inglenook, a seafood restaurant in Barmouth. The place was a bit eccentric and felt like we were sitting in somebody's front room. The service, whilst not bad, was also not great, taking a while to ask us for our drinks order and then not asking again when we'd clearly finished our drinks some time ago.

That being said, the food there can not be faulted, and we all had 3 delicious meals, and I was even kept happy with my healthy eating obsession. My mother had a prawn cocktail followed by seafood casserole; my father hot and spicy prawns (though he said they weren't particularly spicy, but still tasty!) followed by plaice in a cheese sauce, and I myself had Rollmop to start which I already love, and I had trout in a herb butter for my main, and instead of potatos/chips I kindly asked for extra veg, to which the waitress was happy to oblige. My fish was absolutely stunning - the bone fell away from the flesh and it was so so tasty! Very impressed.

We had a slow meander back up the hill to the B&B afterward and I finally sampled the famous Pendryn welsh whiskey. It's extremely potent, and not as sweet as I normally like in a whiskey, but it was extremely tasty and I love the Pendryn whiskey glasses. If I can find a smallish gift set I'll definitely treat myself!

Had an excellent night's sleep again and just winding up for breakfast. The owner of our B&B has offered to make me porridge, so I'll be grinning like a loon come eating time. Will grab a couple of papers before hand, and then I think we'll head home stopping somewhere on the way. Then tomorrow it's off to Manchester for a friend's wedding. Busy, busy, busy!

Again, i'm not sure who, if anyone, will read this, but it's certainly doing wonders for my anxiety and worrying. Thanks blogger!


Okay, so the following morning we awoke and went for our breakfast again - this time I had requested porridge! Which suits me down to the ground. I do love my porridge. Had a little muesli and my rudimentary fruit, so I was happy. Then we wandered down into Barmouth and had a mooch through the market the shops in a little bit of rain. There's not a great deal there, but what is there is quaint and interesting - lots of tat shops customary of seaside places; a strange furniture shop which was interesting and I managed to find my good friend the MOST AMAZING second hand board game from a fund raiser. I'll blog about that when we've played it!

En route home we stopped again for some more amazing soup (nom!) at the steam railway station, then forward onto home. I enjoyed my break but was glad to back, if only for a night before heading to Manchester on Friday for my good friend and ex-colleague's wedding.

That's me done now! Thanks for paying a little attention to what I have to say! I believe I'm getting better with my eating and I'm trying not to worry about it so much, occasionally treating myself but making sensible, healthy decisions. And trying, thought not always succeeding, to not focus and worry so much about food and stay in the moment and enjoy my life experiences. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

#TheUnexpectedInheritenceOfInspectorChopra Mini Spoiler Free Book Review

Vaseem Khan's first story of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency, entitled The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, is a charming story detailing the early retirement of Inspector Chopra, an Indian police detective with an upstanding reputation and a unscrupulous moral code of conduct. 

Due to health reasons, Chopra is forced into early retirement, and finds the sudden shift from active detective to a man of leisure disconcerting and he struggles to adapt. He is unable to let sleeping dogs lie in the way of a murder case, after an up and coming entrepeneur is found suspisciously drowned and the boy's mother is convinced the corrupt Indian forces will do little to find justice. Despite it being his his final day of employment and being reprimanded by his replacement, Chopra can't let the case go without investigation.

Chopra's titular unexpected inheritance is that of a baby elephant called Ganesha that is bequeathed to him by his uncle, and who gives Chopra and his Wife Poppy a new responsibility to contend with. Unable to have children of their own, the story also touches upon social stigmas of these types of situations. The developing relationships between Poppy and Ganesha, Chopra and Ganesha and indeed Poppy and Chopra quickly become absorbing, and I found myself very emotionally attached to the three of them as a family unit. 

Khan maintains a good ballance of serious and lighthearted elements throughout, covering the difficulties of Indian family life, social pressures and the added responsibility of Ganesha, versus descriptions of events from the gritty, criminal undergrowth and inclusion of seedy, political corruption. The plot does kind of culminate with a typically Miss Marple 'bad guy reveals all' before Chopra quite has time to find all the evidence he needs to support his claim. This feels a little cheesy, yet somehow appropriate for this story, and didn't reduce my enjoyment at all.

Without wanting to spoil the book as per usual, I will just say that the story is interesting and, for lack of a better word, really charming. It's not groundbreaking - there is little in the way of shocking revelations within the plot, but the solid story craft and memorable cast make up for this.

It's also really nice to read a piece of detective fiction set somewhere different - I am fairly new to the genre but reading a story from the Indian setting was really interesting for me, especially as the book details the ever growing expanse between the poor and upper classes really well, and describes the sites, smells and sounds effectively.

I would recommend this story for anybody looking for a fairly easy going read, maybe something for on the deck chair beside the pool, as well as fans of detective fiction in general. It does feel a little cheesy and easy at times, but I was still smiling frequently throughout as well as being suitably gripped during the more tense moments.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

#ANaturalHistoryOfDragons by Marie Brenan - Mini Spoiler Free Book Review

A Natural History Of Dragons - A Memoir By Lady Trent is a fictional work written by Marie Brenan, but is written as if it were the factual retelling of the good Lady Trent's introduction to the world of science, and subsequently her unique relationship and study into the lives of dragons.
Set in a kind of Victorian Era fantasy world, the values of the upper class are very much similar to how they would've been, expecting women to behave appropriately and when the time came, to simply marry appropriately and be entirely supported by their spouse.

Lady Trent's memoirs begin autobiographically, recounting her childhood misdemeanours of allowing her elder her brother to pilfer scientific literary works from her Father's office for her to read. She develops a fascination to all things Naturalist, and in particular an obsession with Dragons. To quell this, she begins to collect Sparklings, a hobby that should've been discouraged in her as an upper class female, but one which her father eventually allows. Sparklings are described as an almost insect like creature, having a dramatic resemblance to the biology of dragons, and like a Victorian child may hunt bugs, pinning them to a board and labeling them with both their Latin and common English name, so does Lady Trent begin to do the same with Sparklings.

The story progresses to the Lady's desire to please her family and marry an eligible suitor, discussing all the social and dramatic pitfalls along the way. Luckily enough, she manages to snag and appropriately well bred husband whose interest in science is on a par with her own.

Eventually, as events unfold, Lady Trent becomes herself involved in an expedition to a land to assist first hand in the research into a specific breed of dragon.

The book continues as a chronology of events during the expedition, making many (pseudo) scientific insights about the land, the inhabitants, the creatures and most importantly, the dragons. Trent accompanies the expedition as a clerical assistant and artist, taking detailed diagrams of the locations and creatures they encounter on their expedition. The book includes some of these drawings which look exquisite and really help you to see how she was contributing to the research party.

However, as with all things, the story unfolds into a dramatic series of social and political events which are having a large influence on the village where they are staying, and to the behaviours of the beasts they have come to study. I will avoid any spoilers as usual, but as the story unfolds it quickly becomes a dramatic page turner with shock surprises until the very end.

I really enjoyed this book, and I think that it is written as though dragons are assumed to be a scientific fact, helps. It's unlike anything I've read before and I really enjoyed the style of Lady Trent's recounting her memoirs. The locations, creatures and events are all expertly described adding to the realism and tension appropriately and when required. Despite it being a largely factual retelling, I still found myself attached to Lady Trent and other characters, and found myself emotionally committed to them. There are also a number of twists and turns in the plot I did not expect. Most importantly, the entire book is believable.

It also ends on a suitable cliffhanger, without being cheesy, leading into the next story which I believe is A Tropic Of Serpents. I'm really excited to continue my adventures with the good lady over the next 3 books currently out in the series.
Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

#WarlockHolmes by G.S.Denning - spoiler free mini book review

Warlock Holmes - A Study In Brimstone is a fantasy twist on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and famous sidekick Watson, only this time Sherlock is named Warlock and not all can be explained through logic and reasoning. Many of the crimes the duo are enlisted to help solve are steeped in and surrounded by mystery, magic and monsters.

The stories here have many likenesses to the tales of Sherlock Holmes that I already knew, only Watson is the purveyor of observation and reasoning, trying desperately to educate Holmes in these abilities whilst Warlock insists on using his own unique talents to help the duo solve cases. 

I could not help but imagine the magical crime fighting duo as the actors Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, which is no bad thing! They suit the roles in my head even in this fantasy setting of 221b Baker street.

The short stories are filled with interesting, lovable and suitably evil characters and bad guys, both magical and none, many twists and turns and lots of humour, and I often found myself chuckling out loud as I read through their missions in my favourite coffee shop. The writing style is worded similarly to the original Victorian settings of the Sherlock tales, yet it was not any more challenging to read than a book of modern dialect. The dialogue throughout was absorbing and entertaining and I really struggled to put the book down for any length of time.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in detective fiction, the Sherlock TV show, dark(ish) humour and good, absorbing storytelling. The final story also concludes with an epic cliff-hanger, making me yearn for the next entry in the tales of Warlock and Watson.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

#HarryPotterAndTheCursedChild mini spoiler free book review

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is the long awaited sequel millions of Potter fans have been waiting for since the original tale of a skinny, bespectacled wizard reached it's epic conclusion in The Deathly Hours, though not in the form that many expected. Story number 8 has swooped in on it's Nimbus 2000 in the form of a play script. 

The story focusses now upon the offspring of some of the main players in the original Potter stories as they uncover a conspiracy once again to plunge the world back in to darkness in the most unexpected and typically evil of ways. The fact that it is written as a play script somewhat dampened the hype for me, however this was a concern I needn't have worried myself with. As you get used to it it fast becomes a typically magnetic and familiar tale so obviously crafted by good ol' J.K, and I often felt like I was becoming reacquainted with an old friend. The original cast members feel suitably matured but still sound believable as themselves - Potter is still Potter, Weasley still ridiculous, Hermione still infectiously intelligent, and their children feel a genuine mix of their parentage, whilst still being relatable as new, interesting characters in their own rights. 

Whilst not groundbreaking, it is certainly an absorbing story, and one which will hook all of you Potterheads in line and sinker, with insights and twists that feel well considered, and not just included for shock value. I read the script in a day in a few bursts, and it's not long, but the last time I was glued to a story like this may have been back when the original release of Philosophers Stone had come out. Try and ignore the hype, but don't discount it either. Highly recommended. 

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