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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Warrior's Princess

The Warrior's Princess The Warrior's Princess by Barbara Erskine

Susan's rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed Barbara Erskine’s books for years and when I pick one up I know I’m in for a great read. The Warrior’s Princess went far beyond my expectations and carried on going long after I turned the last page.

Where to start without giving away spoilers? I loved Jess, the protaganist of the contemporary story in the novel. As for Eigon, the protagonist of the historical story, W-O-W!

The Warrior’s Princess is an epic read and one where you can’t help savouring every second of the journey. Erskine has an amazing gift of words that takes the reader from one century to another in a natural way. Each setting is evocative and real to the degree that the reader forgets they are witnessing a scene from the distant past. The quality of the writing is fluent and never jerks the reader from one setting to the other.

This story has, for me, an extra special ingredient that unfolds later in the story. It’s one that reaffirms my own personal beliefs and it’s a luxury and pleasure to witness them first-hand in the skilled hands of this talented author.

The Warrior’s Princess is an exciting, and at times, dark read. Both the past and the present stories are grounded in reality. Be ready for a mixture of emotions, and a box of tissues close to hand. It’s a read that’s worth the investment.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Wild Hunt The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

Susan's rating: 5 of 5 stars

I couldn’t resist putting on hold my other TBR book to read this story. This is a library loan that Graham snapped up and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity…

The Wild Hunt was Chadwick’s debut novel and won a Betty Trask Award (as well as a literary agent and publisher!). I’d like to share part of Chadwick’s Author’s Note because it’s great inspiration for all aspiring writers…

"…The year I won, the award was presented by H.R.H The Prince of Wales at Whitehall. This was a somewhat surreal moment for me as six months previously I had been stacking shelves at the local supermarket…”

The Wild Hunt was first published in 1990 and the copy that I’m reviewing was revised and published in 2008.

This is another great Chadwick read with the main thread of the story focusing on the romance between Judith of Ravenstow and Guyon, lord of Ledworth. The historical backdrop is in the tumultuous and often dangerous times of William Rufus and Prince Henry. I’ve always loved learning about history in the post-Conquest period and Chadwick brings it to life like no other.

Elizabeth Chadwick’s writing is, as always, superb. This is an author who manages to make every character and setting live and breathe off the page. I'm looking forward to catching up with the next story in this trilogy.

You can also read Graham's review here

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Going to a writers' conference?

It's Writer's Wednesday over at PHS with tips that'll be of particular interest to those booked to go to a writers' conference. Sadly, this year, I'm not one of them. However, even for those of us who aren't attending anything this year, these are tips that are worth reading (and, note-to-self, remembering!).

I've only been to one conference - last year's RNA. In my own experience as a newbie conference attendee, before I had even left home I felt overwhelmed at the realisation that I was finally on my way to an RNA conference. It was such a HUGE deal for me. Consequently, the excitement itself had taken its toll even before I made it to Registration!

The advice from this PHS post that particularly resonates with me is:

  • Nicola Marsh advises, "...Take time out when you need it..." 
This sounds like such an easy thing to do but trust me when I say that it's also one of the hardest. Attending an RNA event was something I'd dreamed about for sooo long that I couldn't bear the thought of missing ANYTHING.

I planned ahead but when the time came I didn't allow myself to be flexible. I'm determined that next time I'll attend fewer workshops with the intention of feeling a lot more relaxed and fresh. This *should* help me to avoid feeling/looking harassed and more able to focus my attention fully on where I am (as opposed to worrying about how the heck I'll make it to the next session on time...).

  • Kate Hardy offers a practical tip, "Bring your own tea bags..."
My biggest regret was not braving the apartment block kitchen - or gate-crashing others. I guess at the time I was too overwrought with the exacerbation of chronic dizziness/fatigue (more from putting myself under too much pressure to attend everything, than anything else!).

So, this PHS post has shown me what not to do at my next conference. Thanks, PHSers, I'm feeling more confident (and prepared) for my next time. :D

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So, it's been like this...

The MS has been bugging me for a while. Determinedly (or should that be stubbornly?) I've tried to out fox it. My creative well has all but dried up and I've been emotionally drained since losing my m-i-l to MS three months ago. Then, the ongoing stress of my own mother's ongoing battle with cancer is also taking its toll, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

A few weeks ago I accepted that I'm not in the right place to write fiction at the moment. I have instead enjoyed the luxury of immersing myself in reading and discovering lots of articles on the craft of writing (and when possible posting links via Facebook/Twitter for other aspiring writers to enjoy). It also made sense for me to turn to my other creative pursuits like knitting, cross-stitch and my recent introduction to rug making, but I soon discovered that even those, like the writing, were beyond me because my hands had turned MSsy too.

With no output for my creativity I recognised that I was in danger of slipping into that dark tunnel of depression that I know so well. Then something happened and I became aware that there's a difference to the usual slippery slope. Depression often takes away the feeling of wanting to do anything (even reading) but I still had the urge to keep busy. That was the moment when I found a hidden strength to fight back. I knew I had to find something therapeutic that I could do - even with the MSsy symptoms. I then felt a great NEED to do some baking but (as is my want) I had to do it NOW. Right now. Trust me when I say that this was a first for me! I usually want to bake, but a need to? Not so much.

Recognising that he was witnessing something unusual, and being a man who loves his wife's home cooking, Graham became a Man-on-a-Mission. His task? To take me around a few local village shops to scour the shelves for ingredients. Of course, by the time we arrived home armed with self-raising flour and other baking paraphernalia I was whacked. The next day however I was good to go and for the next few days I was a hive of activity (see previous post).

We both enjoyed my sudden achievements and I was sooo careful to look after myself too. I'd work in the kitchen for 20 minutes then have a rest for 20 minutes before continuing my goals and thus it continued. Heck, I even used a timer (lest I got enticed by the power of internet procrastination)! By this time I'd recognised that this was me being determined and not stubborn and my technique was working! And then... I was hit by even more chronic dizziness and fatigue than usual.

I'm currently in a relapse but, as I always do when I have no other option, I'm allowing it to take its course. So far, I've managed not to contact the powers-that-be to likely coerce me into a short, intense course of the dreaded steroids. So far. We'll see. If I get any worse than I was at the weekend especially, I won't be stubborn and I will arrange to see the doc.

As always, I'm grateful for all the prayers/positive thoughts that are sent my way and in the meantime, please bear with me when I unload my meaningless words in a rambling blog post. The way I see it - at least I'm writing something. : D

Monday, June 21, 2010

A flurry of activity

This past month or so has seen a flurry of busyness from both Graham and myself.

It began when I went through a major domesticated phase - cue: deep cleaning the kitchen, throwing tonnes of stuff out in an 'out with the old in with the new' kinda way ; ). All this in readiness for my intentions of baking up a storm. This I finally achieved, even culminating in successfully making my own ice-cream [which turned out less like ice cream but more like a kind of sorbet thingy] BUT it is edible and very refreshing. : )

As to my other baking achievements well, least said soonest mended AKA they never lasted long enough to make it to the storage tins let alone another day. In other words a Certain Person managed to finish everything before the precious baked goodies had even cooled down. I felt the joy of achievement for all of 20 minutes before my efforts vanished as though they had never been *sigh* ; ).

Graham, besides being incredibly hungry for freshly baked goods, has also been extra busy with some additional freelance work. This also coincided with a fleeting visit from my daughter. However, by this time, my recent flurry of domesticity was catching up with me so DD & I spent our few days relaxing and doing what we do best - talking. This was DD's first short-stay visit home from uni and we both felt it came to an end too soon. However, experience has shown that this is a GOOD thing because it means that neither of us were chomping at the bit to get away from the other, which in turn means that we're already looking forward to the next visit. : )

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Review: ENGLISH LORD, ORDINARY LADY by Fiona Harper

English Lord, Ordinary Lady English Lord, Ordinary Lady by Fiona Harper

Susan's rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful story and such a fun read from author, Fiona Harper.

English Lord, Ordinary Lady contains everything that I love about series romance – great characters, laugh-out-loud humour, with a twist of emotional angst.

Another feel-good read that’s a keeper and Fiona Harper joins my list of fave Harlequin Mills & Boon Romance authors.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Book Review: RAMPANT by Saskia Walker

Susan's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rampant is Saskia Walker’s first novel for Harlequin Spice and my first Spice read.

Phewww! There’s nothing like jumping in at the deep end and the author does this with the very first words of Rampant’s prologue. This leaves you in no doubt that you’re reading erotic fiction. Yet, as with all the stories Saskia Walker writes, there’s much more to them than their erotic nature.

Every character in Rampant, whether evil or good, comes alive and the entire story is living and breathing in a sizzling atmosphere. It’s very difficult to put this book down and even when life dictates that you *have* to put your reading aside, the book’s vivid setting and imagery are never far away from your senses awaiting your return to its pages.

Saskia Walker’s writing is, as always, beautiful. Rampant is melded together with paranormal and historical context; everything is woven intricately to make this a contemporary read with many layers.

What more can I say without revealing plot spoilers? This is another of my keepers and I recommend it wholeheartedly (with a warning that Rampant isn’t for the faint-hearted or those who find sexually explicit language offensive).