My new addiction…

I have a few little obsessions. Generally they change with the times. Although I don’t think I’ll be rid of this one any time soon.

I adore mood boards and sketchbooks. If I could, I would hang a cork board and pin things on my wall until it’s inches deep with cut outs and clippings. Unfortunately this would be expensive; books and magazines don’t come cheap.

So what have I found?

Pinterest.

Yup. If you’ve known about Pinterest for years then I apologise, this post will bore you to tears. If not, YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT PINTEREST IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME.

So, I collect and collate. I horde and I keep. Pinterest is basically an online mood board or pin board for anything and everything you like, want to share, want to read, rate or follow; recipes, animal photography, pet pictures, craft projects, diy tips, interior design ideas, posters, sayings, tattoo ideas, wedding inspiration, kid stuff, education, health and well being, beauty, products, jewellery and fashion. Everything. On one board alone I probably have over 400 items or ‘pins’. These pins are links back to their original source which is fab news if you find some good stories while browsing that you want to keep or read later.

The thing is, for me, it’s like reading a magazine that changes to suit what you want to look at. It’s the magazine chameleon. I get home. I pick up Kindle. I browse Pinterest. So much so now OH has noticed. We watch tv and I browse Pinterest. “How can you even be watching this and messing with that?” He has now noticed I laugh at my Kindle screen more than I laugh at him. For him, this is the intruder in our relationship.

I even feel a bit guilty if he looks over and catches me on it.

So, this obviously means I am addicted. I have to stop. Go cold turkey. Pull the plug.

But I’ve just seen the most amazing print your own scarf tutorial…

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The new Kindle Fire.

I sit here, writing a review on the new Kindle Fire from my new Kindle Fire.

I must admit, I love a new gadget; something new to play with, figure out, personalise…

Well, from a fabulous new gadget point of view the new Fire definitely deserves five full stars. I have never been good with computers. I get them to do the job I need doing if only through sheer will and not any great affinity for technology.

The kindle has a very simple set of menus that load quickly and are easy to navigate. The home screen shows all of your books, apps, favourite websites, music and photos as nice big cubes to scroll through (see, no stupid techno-jargon here) and if that’s too much, you can choose one sub section to browse from the left-right list at the top of the home screen. Easy.

I am an avid book fan. Books, the paper things that can’t crash and don’t need charging, are a tad bulky and I knew I’d need a kindle eventually. When my laptop died Dad told me this was the best choice. Probably my only choice as my house just isn’t big enough for all my books.

So, books on the Fire. Once set up you can browse on Amazon.co.uk and buy books through the link to the kindle store (something you don’t see on the Amazon website itself). Downloading a book takes less than 3 seconds and once bought, is backed up on Kindles own ‘server’ Cloud. I don’t have money to throw around so am selective when paying for books which, on a kindle, aren’t exempt from vat charges by the way. But, the vast amount of freebies found through Books- store in your menu mean you can try several thousand wonderful trashy tales just to get you used to the way it all works.

Apps are another favourite and of course, I don’t pay for these. They are silly time wasters and a fantastic addition to your home screen just to give you the option of a distraction other than reading. Unfortunately there are hundreds of apps that all do the same things. I rarely want to know the weather in LA (and only LA it seems) but would much rather have a lunar calendar app installed. Well, if there is a free one, I sure as hell can’t find it. ¬†Though if you are an angry birds fan, you are thoroughly catered for.

The touch screen sensitivity is fantastic and I am  typing this whole thing on the touch screen keyboard with very little difficulty. Wonderful stuff.

BBC iplayer is pre installed, facebook is easy to find and the ebay app keeps you completely on top of your purchasing. It is an android and the similarities between the Fire and my Galaxy SII is odd. Meaning unless you can chance over the running systems confidently without turning your Kindle into an empty black shell it is and does exactly the same as a phone. Only minus the camera and calls. Email. No problem. Word files. You gotcha.

I think once you regularly start using the Fire, it should begin to gain some sort of ¬†character and personality. Adding skins and accessories will only help me become more attached to my device. With that in mind there is a veritable treaure trove of goodies aimed at the new Fire owner (beware, the Fire is smaller than the Fire HD an cannot be used with covers, skins etc for use with this bigger model.) Apps get added as and when you find them, my Christmas gift list app being a firm favourite right now alongside amazon and solitaire (but no, I didn’t spend five hours playing on it) and I’m going to add other free apps from my favourite websites to ease the shopping experience on the run up to Christmas.

Getting online is easy and once you have popped your home broadband password in, you never need to do it again. Your Fire, when turned on to receive WiFi, will only prompt for connection if it cannot find your default/home connection.

Battery life is extended by turning off WiFi searching and if you only read books rather than playing solitaire for 5 hours straight (no, I did not do this, I just assume it’s common sense). To charge fully on an old style Kindle charger which, no, does NOT come with the product, luckily my OH has old style Kindle, takes a fair few hours which is probably why the cheeky bastards at Amazon took a charger out of the product specifics and now try to charge you an arm and a leg for the ‘Fast Charger’ or what ever the heck they call it, which charges, you got it, faster. This is the only downfall for me which has less to do with the product and more to do with greedy retailers.

I’ll add photos as and when I upload them onto my device. I’ll have to sync up my Galaxy and Fire to swap photos around through the laptop as intermediary… nice when they keep it simple no?

 

Book Review- Jaz Parks Series Finale.

I’ve just finished the final book in the series and wanted to share thoughts…

Jasmine Parks is an assistant assassin for the CIA working alongside the CIA’s most highly coveted “national treasure” Vayl. Vayl is nearly three hundred years old. He’s also a vampire.

This last installment centers around Jasmine’s fight to rid herself of a Domytr by the name of King Brude who shacked up in her unconscious somehow, unbeknown to anyone reading the last book, on that last mission. Her head of department at the CIA was murdered and their dept shut down so her team are pretty much going rogue on this one.

Each and every book is a new mission and if you miss a book, you miss a little of what’s going on in the next as the author assumes you’ll read the lot.

The pace of storyline is good (good being okay-good and not exceptional-good) but a couple of books seem hurried and Jasmine’s inner dialogue is either choppy and confusing or just plain over the top and boring. Also, some character interaction in a couple of the earlier books is a little hurried and I don’t feel for these people. It feels a bit too forced and I genuinely don’t believe Jaz when she keeps telling the reader she loves her crew. I just don’t feel it.

Jasmine’s character is the main focus here I know but I just feel it’s too big for the proper development of any of the others. For someone who’s keeping her heart locked away due to past traumas (in this latest book Jaz mentions losing her last fiance Matt only 18 months before) she certainly jumps into new relationships quickly and whole heartedly.

She ‘gets’ things and figures situations out without that irritating inner monologue explaining it for the reader but explaining far less interesting/intriguing plot moments instead. She jumps from mission to mission with her crew having only a couple of days or weeks in between yet we are supposed to believe her people can just look at her and know exactly what she’s thinking even when they’ve only worked together a couple of months? Hmm.

Also, and this is probably one of the most awful things about this series; the strange and weird creatures the crew come up against. Knomes? With big blue noses and tails? Is that not just bloody ridiculous when trying to write an almost serious story? And the way Jasmine (therefore the CIA by extension) know the names and known whereabouts of the most bizarrely or poorly described bad guys yet have either A, no powers to do anything about said weird bad guys or B, knowing who they are and where they are have no idea who they are or where they are? Confusing no? The team has lots of information of absolutely no relevance and assume quite a bit or they have no information and manage to make decisions quickly and easily and get the assassinations done.

Jasmine also heads the missions when she’s only the assistant assassin? Rardin (the author) gives her all the power and decision making and then has her making ditzy mistakes and lovey eyes at Vayl the next second. In some instances Jaz switches from ‘Off’ mode to ‘Working’ so quickly I wonder if she’s not a robot. There’s talk of her being able to switch, keeping her mind on the job and nothing else, like an obsession and then she flies off the handle at the slightest annoyance.

There are silly side-plots (like saving Aaron’s Dad’s ghost) that I kinda didn’t understand what they were there for. Other than the only reason this man had to be included in the story was because he is the reincarnated soul of one of Vayl’s sons who he has been dying to meet again for two hundred years and should meet before the end of the series. Quickly. The character has about as much personality as a used plastic sandwich bag and serves no purpose in the plot.

We also find out Vayl the vampire assassin has been watching Jasmine’s family for many a generation and he somehow had never met Jasmine until she worked for the CIA. Yet as we just discovered he’d had an eye on the family and kept them safe for two hundred years… Huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I read ALL the books in the series but it was a bit of a struggle at times. Maybe I just don’t like the main character Jasmine? But that’s really the whole point isn’t it? You have to care? Otherwise, SO WHAT?

So what? might best explain my reaction to these books. I read them because I was waiting on something good to come up and after I bought three books I just went and finished the series. Within these stories there is nothing but the mission and really nothing going on in the world apart from Jasmine Parks and the people who make her feel better/do things for her/marry her brother…

It passes time but I wouldn’t read any of these books more than once and that’s pretty much the seal of dis-approval from me.

If I won’t read it twice, it wasn’t worth the price.

 

Newest TV Series…

So, I love a good American TV series and missed The Walking Dead when Channel 5 first released it last year. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. Channel 5, being the most viewer-forward channel I’ve ever known on freeview caught on and in the run-up to the release of the second series (due to start this week I think) they have been showing it again.

I missed it. Again. So we bought the fairly short series on dvd so we could ‘cram-catch-up’ whenever we wanted. So today we have.

I may have a morbid mind but I am completely intrigued by ‘the end of civilisation as we know it’ kinda films; the Day After Tomorrow concept being among one of my faves. It’s not an overwhelming script and the premise has been done before but I like the fact that with that story, there was real hope of a fresh start when the end credits rolled.

Maybe not so much with The Walking Dead, or not as yet anyway, as I’m only a few episodes in. Here, we get thrown straight in to the ‘Fever/Zombie’ scenario and me being me, make a few obviously well educated comments on ‘Look after the horse DAMMIT, he doesn’t run on Diesel!’ and ‘I wouldn’t waste my bullets on mercy killings…’

Here we meet ‘just a man, looking for his wife and son’ and the tiny pockets of survivors he meets along the way. We see panic and skeptism. Trust and heartbrake.

I think on this. I consider the main character’s choices. I try to make mine. Would I be as cool in the face of certain death as I appear to be right now, sitting in my favourite chair with a coffee and my cat, considering it? Could I kill the people I used to love in mercy? Would I run? Would I be alone? Would I search out a better place or make the place I have safe? How would I feed myself? How would I get around (not by car it seems as my reaction to the horse dictates)…

I have had a book on my wishlist for a while now- When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin. Maybe I might satisfy that morbid curiosity that I know all humans have by buying it and finding out what to do ‘When All Hell Breaks Loose’…

Book Review- Moon Called

As I’ve mentioned before I’m hard to please when it comes to a good book. I won’t read anything too depressing; think semi-auto-biographies¬† based on an abusive¬†childhood for example… Not a fan I’m afraid. Or crime thrillers with a tortured male lead. Nope. Don’t care.

Give me the supernatural any day. Fantasy, no. There’s a difference for me. I don’t enjoy lots of long randomly named made-up places and the seemingly hundreds of similarly named characters created to inhabit these worlds. I don’t care for bows and arrows, shields and swords. The only fantasy worlds I’ve actually enjoyed reading about were the Dark Materials Trilogy, the Mortal Engines series and the Magicians Apprentice series (of which I’ll probably review in more detail later.)

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs is the start of a particularly favoured series of mine.

Centering around 30-something Mercedes Thompson, a local mechanic and Shapeshifter. The story introduces her nieghbours and friends and using intrigue and loyalty, tempts Mercy into an adventure that will set the ball folling for an extremely busy couple of years.

Mercy has tried to keep her head down. Ever since figthting her way out from her adoptive (and just as supernatural) extended family, she just wanted to fit in and get on. Buying her mentor’s garage and starting up her mechanic’s business was just that.¬†

Cover Appearance- 9/10 Depending on the edition (I have the american print) there are multiple versions of the main character Mercy on the front of the book, mine being a wonderful illustration by Daniel Dos Santos. I like good book cover design and as soon as I was able to get my hands on a computer or sketch book as a kid would redesign and examine book covers. It’s an old cliche that ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Well I’m here to say that’s wrong.

A book cover gives you a fantastic canvas to snare potential readers with. Gone are the days when an agent would find a random piece of art and slap it over the content without any input from the author. COVERS ARE SO IMPORTANT. You can give tiny hints of a plot, a character, the overall mood of the plot, a twist, the title can be woven into a wonderful piece of art and time should be taken on this to get it right. There is no excuse. You put all your time into writing what you hope is a great story and when you manage to get it published (which in itself is no small task) you don’t give a damn and just slap something on the cover quickly?

Character Development- 8/10 The characters are witty and full. The relationships are real and gritty. There’s no silly idealistic romance or rediculous unprovoked angst. It’s full of laugh out loud lines and real history between characters. Great fun!

Plot Structure- 8/10 This is the setting-up-for-a-great-series book, although this is still a great standalone story.

You may think eight out of ten isn’t particularly high, despite my praise. It’s actually a very high mark as I really don’t believe any book is perfect, there’s a different story in those words for every individual who reads them and they’ll never be perfect. That’s the charm.

Would I re-read this book? Most definitely and I have done over and over and over, not neccesarily in the series intended order or in fact in a series at all, sometimes just reading it through in a couple of nights before bed.

Would I read the next in a series? Yes, again and I have done. The series is ever expanding and has a sub-series in the Alpha & Omega novels and the Graphic novels too.

Book Reviews- An Introduction.

I am an absolutely avid reader. I just can’t help myself.

I remember from a very early age my parents surrounded me with books. I never went without; even though when I was small I can’t really remember seeing my parents reading. It was something I loved, something I was good at and something my parents supported me in.

The one thing I’ve always struggled with is finding a genre to suit my reading style and imagination. I don’t like side story waffle;¬†please get to the point. Although a plot that moves too fast and misses key character building opportunites or has too many characters to keep up with is just too dissapointing for words.

I also find ‘every day’ plots to boring to bother with. Same goes for historical novels, although OH and my Dad adore this genre.¬†I can’t read biographies, tradgedies, chick-lit and anything written by ‘celebrities’ who aren’t actually writers and therefore (in most cases) should not be allowed to write, let alone be encouraged by publishers keen on profit and¬†not quality. I am also not clever enough or ‘arty’ enough to read weird, twisted tales full of backwards and forwards plots, past and present flicking, backstory, multiple viewpoints headed in chapters by the¬†name of the character telling the story at that point¬†and characters coming and going in such quick sucession I have no idea what the hell is going on. I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add to the list in time…

So I want to get attached to characters. I want to believe I’m there; living the story. I want to laugh out loud and bawl my poor little eyes out. I WANT TO CARE. There are so many characters with way too much attitude or so thinly described that I feel absolutely no connection to them or affection for them when things go wrong. In these cases, I put the book down. For me, I find I only connect to a story told in first person by a lead female charcter. I’m sorry, I know this shouldn’t matter if it’s a good book ¬†but it does. I can’t live¬†the story as completely¬†if ¬†I don’t feel what they character is saying. Let’s face it, women ‘say’ more. They over analyse more. I get that. I can empathise.

As I’m so picky I have, through trial and error and plenty of review reading, found what I have been looking for. The genre? Urban fantasy. Modern, gritty, funny and as¬†full of real-life settings and details as I would like to get, just making it believable. The key here is just that; adding just enough of the real-life stuff to make you believe it could be real for you and adding just¬†the right mix of fantasy or supernatural to really loose yourself in.

It’s an art. And one all too many authors have gotten wrong for me.

So, to my favourite series. Yes yes, they have to be a series’ too I’m afraid. I have to know there will be more. I have to be able to follow my favourite characters and live their next tale…

Kelley Armstrong’s The Otherworld Series.

Book One- Bitten. Seriously; this series should come with a warning… Or maybe the title says it all. Once you start reading you just have to read them all.

Complete set of full and real charcters that stay singular characters. All too often I can find an individual changes who they are, with their morals, fears and core personality changing to fit the plot. Not great reading. So in short; great fast paced plot with full characters and lots of back story you can only guess about as the series continues and you learn more and more- There is a long standing love/hate relationship that ignites the dialogue and really brings alive the interactions between characters.

The short stories have recently been published which consists of a lot of back story and explination-type tales. To be honest, don’t read them until you’ve read the series. It’s a little more intriguing if you wait.

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson Series.

Book One- Moon Called. Another wonderfully believable female lead and a fantastic plot to get you hooked.

More full characters and key roles each play in subsequent stories- the mentor, the best friend, the potential love interest, the last love interest. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all about the love interests, the interactions between characters are so alive with the power of their individual realationships you can’t help but feel there’s history. Much like Armstrong’s characters although the cast here is larger.

My ultimate Top Two series with a total of twenty books, not including the couple of graphic novels each, between them makes them a hefty percentage of a bookshelf. Remember I read alot. I also have a few more series worth a mention and I’ll probably cover each in much more detail at a later date…

Christine Warren’s Others Series.

Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan Series.

Rachel Vincent’s Faith Sanders Series.

Jennifer Rardin’s Jaz Parks Series.

I’m sure this is the first of many essays on my favourite reads. Enjoy!