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Archive for August, 2015

Where did August go?!  Own up, who stole it!?  Seems like we’d barely broken into the month and this is the last day of it!  Either that or I’ve been that busy I’ve not noticed it flying by.

It’s been a fun month though, I’ve started on a book blogging journey (you may have noticed the cleverly titled entries with “Book Review” in their title – bit of a giveaway eh!?), also been making an effort to continue going to the village cafe every Wednesday morning for a coffee, even more impressed as I swapped numbers with one of the other mums in the village so if I want to go to the Toddler’s Group she’ll meet me and we’ll go together so I won’t be going in alone (she’s a star, so lovely and just one of those people you can’t help but smile at when you see them).  And I volunteered to help out with an #bepbb on Twitter.

#bepbb for those that don’t know was the light bulb moment of Jetta, a lovely lass who has brought sunshine to a lot of people with her use of thinking of something postive that has happened to you that day.  Doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, whether you climbed Everest or you got to the bottom of the ironing pile, it all counts as something good that happened to you and you should share it with the world.   There are a group of people online who will take a turn “hosting” each night for #bepbb, and in a huge step towards building my confidence I volunteered to host on a Wednesday night! 
Seeing the tweets coming in from people saying what has made them happy that day helps me see that it’s not all doom and gloom out there, that there are wee nuggets of happiness out there if you  know where to look for them.  Sometimes my own #bepbb is something as simple as I had a lovely snuggle with my sleeping baby, or I got some housework done, but to me they mean the difference between a good day and a bad day.  Seeing the number of responses to #bepbb is fantastic, there are so many people participating now and it’s wonderful to see.  Why not pop past with your #bepbb any night between 2100 & 2200, just use the hashtag and one of the hosts will pick it up.

I’m in denial at the moment, it’s only 32 days until my daughter is 1 year old, how the hell did that happen?!  This time last year, we’d not long moved out to our wee village, I was waddling about with a MASSIVE bump and we were trying to slowly put some order in the chaos that was our new home, now 1 year on we’re decorating little bits here and there and planning a birthday party for our daughter.  She’s getting so grown up, she’s got 8 teeth, she crawls about and pulls herself up to standing at any opportunity and as soon as she’s mastered balance she will be walking…….I can’t quite believe it!  Part of me wants her to stay a teeny wee baby forever, but part of me is so excited to see what sort of person she grows into.  Who will she turn out like, will she be like her father and be able to turn her hand to most things – fix cars, set up the computer and router so that networks run properly in the house, build walls or just generally be fantastic.  Or will she take after me, who can do a few things well and attempts other things with great enthusiasm but little skill?  Hopefully she takes the best bits of us both and uses them to create the person she wants to be, but as long as she’s happy that’s all that matters.  Doesn’t matter if she’s a brain surgeon, a brick layer or a monkey trainer, as long as she’s happy with who she is and where she’s got to, I will be happy.  Of course, if she becomes a brain surgeon I will remind her that she need to look after her old mam and dad!

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Master of Shadows

Author : Neil Oliver
Published: 10 September 2015
Reviewed:  25 August 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Orion Publishing Group in return for an honest review via NetGalley.

 

 4 out of 5 stars


From the lawless borderlands of Scotland to the crumbling majesty of Constantinople, the first novel from TV historian Neil Oliver is a sweeping, epic adventure and the story of a man all but forgotten by history.
In fifteenth-century Constantinople, Prince Constantine saves the life of a broken-hearted girl. But the price of his valour is high.
John Grant is a young man on the edge of the world. His unique abilities carry him from his home in Scotland to the heart of the Byzantine Empire in search of a girl and the chance to fulfil a death-bed promise.
Lena has remained hidden from the men who have been searching for her for many years. When she’s hunted down, at last she knows what she must do.
With an army amassing beyond the city’s ancient walls, the fates of these three will intertwine. As the Siege of Constantinople reaches its climax, each must make a choice between head and heart, duty and destiny.

Helpfully, this novel starts with a brief history lesson, the background to Constantinople, its importance as a centre for religion, arts and sieges.  This serves as a fantastic memory aid as well as introducing some key information that would be of use to the reader later in the book.

The prologue gives the reader the first glimpse at Neil Oliver’s abilities as an author, the descriptive narrative immediately bringing clear images to mind of a crouched character struggling in the dark, “”..Crouching, bent over like a half-shut knife, he took a step forward into the cramped space…”
but also gives a good indication of how this novel will go, twists and turns, battles, heroes, damsels and destiny.

Set in Scotland in 1444, the reader is introduced to John Grant, a unique young man, with an “other worldly” air about him, he has the ability to “tune into” his surroundings so deftly that he can sometimes sense what’s coming.
Another intriguing character introduced in the first part of the novel is Badr Khassan, who is magnificently described, the wild and unruly appearance, to the dark eyes and the description of the powerful warhorse that he rode, all helping to give a great image of how “strange” but strong this newcomer was to the Scots at this time.
There is no reason to suspect that the scrawny, young John Grant and bulky, powerful giant named Badr Khassan will have any impact on each other, but their destines have been intertwined for sometime, it’s not long before the true story of this novel begins and John Grant’s life really begins.

The narrative jumps between the stories of John, Badr, Patrick, Lena, Yaminah and Constantine.  Each character has their own interesting back story and it’s brought to life in their “own voice” in separate parts of the novel.  It is from part three of the novel that most of the main characters appear together in the same setting.   In the fairness of not ruining the book for other readers I will avoid spoilers, but will say that I was driven to keep reading to see how it all came together. 

The battle scenes are well scripted, the explanations given through the narrative help give a greater understanding of warfare in that time and this is where the history lesson from the beginning of the book comes in useful.  The hand to hand combat is well written, it’s interesting to read how different weaponry changed the way in which combatants engaged. 

The language used in this novel is very befitting the 15th Century setting, indeed I would expect nothing less from such an able historian and archaeologist, and Neil Oliver does himself proud by having done his homework (although perhaps he was already acquainted with the linguistics from his work).    The descriptions of the settings leave you in no doubt of how the Scottish wilderness or Galician woods looked, the magnificence of the Walls of Constantinople or the wonders of Prince Constantine’s chambers.
Character descriptions are so flowing that you cannot help but imagine John Grant as a scrawny teen, Badr Khassan as a powerful dark stranger or Yaminah as a delicate yet strong, beautiful young woman.

This is an impressive debut novel from a very well respected historian, archaeologist and television figure and I can only hope that the sequel lives up to this high standard. My only criticism was that I couldn’t put it down (even at bedtime!). 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Fiction and History genres.

I would like to thank Orion Publishing Group for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book will be published on 10th September 2015.  A copy can be purchased here Master of Shadows (Hardcover UK Version).  The sequel to this novel is expected in 2016.

 

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Lair of Dreams

Author : Libba Bray
Paperback Published:  August 2015
Reviewed: August 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Little, Brown Book Group UK in return for an honest review via NetGalley.

 

 4 out of 5 stars


After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to ‘read’ objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, ‘America’s Sweetheart Seer’. But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities . . .
Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

The story opens in New York in the 1920s, deep underground where men are hard at work digging subway tunnels when they discover a long since abandoned subway station which is caved in.  Human nature and curiosity gets the better of the workmen and they venture in behind the ornate gates to investigate until they discover skeletal remains, all the while a music box plays a soft lulling tune which would later come back to haunt everyone of them in their dreams.
It is from here that we are introduced to “Sleeping Sickness” and how it spreads throughout, no one knows where it came from or how to stop it.

The narrative of the book jumps between the central characters whose lives you are given a glimpse into by the way the story is told.  Evie O’Neill is a Diviner, she has a radio show and appeared in Bray’s previous novel (which I was unaware of when I read this and so cannot comment too much on her back story or motives), but she plays an important role in this story.  As do Henry Dubois the Fourth and Ling Chan, also Diviners and Dream Walkers who unbeknownst to each other end up in the same dream setting one night, and from there they share an adventure that would draw more of the characters together.  There are more characters involved in this story, but for me these three stood out the most, something about the dialogues and descriptions really brought them to life and intrigued me.  
Conscious not to spoil this book for any other reader I will avoid spoilers, believe me there are some things you just need to find out from reading this book!

The writing style used on the whole is good, the dialogues between characters are witty and funny (especially when Ling is involved), there is a richness to descriptions of settings and characters that you can almost imagine the Tea Shop or the theatre, and impressively, the language used in places seemed to “fit” with the 1920s setting, nothing overly modern seemed to stand out. 
There is clever use of newspaper articles, books, telegrams to add additional information to the story, for me this definitely avoided any strung out dialogues which could have become very dull based on some of the information added.

A very atmospheric novel, tense at times, but once the story starts the pace is good, things move along well and characters seem to interweave nicely.  Well written and on the whole, not unpleasant to read.   

This is where I explain why I would not score this book as 5 stars. 
At times I found my attention wandering, or looking ahead because there were too many things going on at once.  Whilst the monsters lurking in the dream world are important to the story, I found myself skipping over these parts to find out what was happening “in the real world” of the story, these incidents held no fascination for me at all, there was no real significance of them for me, but others may disagree and interpret them differently. 
Some of the side plots were distracting and at times it just felt like it was all too busy. 
I do sincerely hope there is a follow up novel, as there are many questions left unanswered upon finishing this book and it would be a shame to leave the story with such an unsatisfying conclusion.

This is good book, and there’s enough narrative to explain the references to the previous book, but I do think that had I been aware of the first book I would have read it first to have a better understanding of certain things. 

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Fiction, Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

I would like to thank Little, Brown Book Group UK for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book will be published on 25th August 2015.  A copy can be purchased here Lair of Dreams (Kindle Version UK).
 

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I have to admit, that before pregnancy, a C Section was never something I thought about, hell it wasn’t something we spoke about over coffee at Costa at work (and I might add we spoke about most things!).
So when I was told after 36 hours of exhausting labour that I needed a emergency section, I felt like I’d been hit by a train.  The consultant started to reel off all the side effects, and the dangers and panic kicked in, suddenly this wasn’t the “walk in the park” the books had described, the drugs were the hardcore “stop you feeling anything past your boobs” sort and the theatre gowned up doctors were ready to get this show on the road.  I don’t think I will ever forget seeing the tears that the midwife had when she asked me if I was ok before they wheeled me out of my room and to theatre, I think the fear and panic showing on my face was enough to show this experienced midwife that I really didn’t know what was happening and they’d just babbled a lot of stuff to us and expected us to just go with it.  Granted, we did, because it was in my best interest, as well as for the baby.  It later turned out that I had 2 blood clots (of the substantial sort) that could have posed risk to either and both of us if they’d not acted as they did.

What no one told me was that once the spinal block had taken hold, I would shake uncontrollably because of how my body reacted to the drugs, I would feel cold as ice and I would also feel sicker than I had with severe morning sickness, so much so that a staff nurse (bless him, he was a complete angel!) stood next to me with a sick basin the entire operation and didn’t seem to bother at all when I was sick on his hand!  I can’t say that I remember much from theatre, I wasn’t aware of them operating on me (didn’t feel tugging etc), but when you’re shaking as badly I can’t think you’d notice something like that.   I just remember someone saying that this had been the quickest Section they’d done, 3 minute from incision to getting the baby out!  And the panic I had because I didn’t hear any cries, I remember turning my head to my husband in a panic, “I can’t hear anything, is the baby ok?” took all my abilities to stutter between shakes, but then there was that magical sound of baby cries and I could relax.
Although I’m still saddened that I wasn’t brave enough to take my daughter straight away, I was shaking so badly that I was scared to take her in-case I dropped her so I let my husband have the first cuddle,  but there’s something special about having done that, seeing the love and tears in his eyes as he met his daughter and saw her for the first time is something I will never forget seeing.

What they don’t tell you is that once you’ve finally got out of theatre and they’ve given you a bed bath is that you will get the most amazing meal ever, well in my case it was, toast and tea (it was after 11pm by this point, and I’d not eaten since I went in to hospital over 36 hours ago!) so I was ravenous and would have eaten a scabby horse!

Then comes the sudden empty feeling, you no longer feel baby kicks or movements (well you wouldn’t since the baby is now in a plastic cot next to your bed!) but there’s something lonely about that empty feeling.
Then the night sweats, you wake up DRENCHED in sweat as all the excess water leaves your body (in a gush you’d have thought!) and you feel like you’ve drowned yourself in bed.
There’s the catheter & bag you have attached to you from having had surgery, because whilst you’re numbed up, you can’t use your legs to go to the bathroom so they kindly hook you up to a bag to pee in.  This is all well and good, but when you are able to move about, you want that gone immediately.
They also forget to mention that you will bleed like nothing on earth!  Think the worst period bleed and then multiply by a million, that’s somewhere in the region of how much you will bleed after birth.  It’s horrible, and I felt so awful when the maternity pads leaked and made a mess of the bed, but the midwives were so lovely and gave me some of the hospital ones, granted they were like industrial sized and mammoth thick but they did the job.
 

There’s the first bowel movement post birth, which for the feint hearted, stop reading now, but my gosh it’s like hell on bleedin’ Earth!  You pray, beg, plead, promise anything to any deity out there that would end the suffering and just let you empty your bowel.  The sweat pours off you, you’re gripping the loo seat under your thighs for dear life in between rocking back and forth like an escaped inmate from a lunatic asylum hoping that the hour you’ve spent on the loo comes to something!

But would I do it all again?!  Of course I would, despite it being major surgery that takes weeks to recover from, it’s absolutely worth it if it brings a life into the world, and anyone that thinks this makes you less of a mother for giving birth this way should seriously rethink their ideas.  This doesn’t make you less of a mother, it makes you a MOTHER, no “if”, no “but”, no questions, you grew a human in your body for 40 long weeks (possibly more), you ate the right things (hopefully), attended scans to check on development and growth and cared for this little person before you’d met them, you loved them from the moment you were aware of them, so no, in my opinion, it doesn’t make you less of a mother, it makes you equal to any other mother out there for doing a job that’s incredibly hard and you should be proud of it!  

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The Lies Between Us

Author : Marian Dillon
Publisher: Carina UK
Published: 13 August 2015
Reviewed: 14 August 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Carina UK in return for an honest review via NetGalley.

 

4 out of 5 stars

Every family has secrets … but some keep them better than others.

Eva has always felt like a disappointment in her mother’s eyes, but even more so now that she has failed her exams. She is working part-time while she studies for her resits, dreaming of when she can go to university, and get away from her family. Her mum, Kathleen, is drinking even more than usual these days, and the void between them is deepening.

They say you never get over your first love, and Kathleen knows that more than most. She met Rick when she was sixteen, and was swept away by his charm and charisma. But their romance stayed behind closed doors and, years on, Kathleen still bears the scars of what he put her through. And Eva has not been an easy child to love.

As Eva and Kathleen struggle to connect, will the very thing that drove them apart be the one thing that can finally bring them together?

Every family has secrets … but some keep them better than others.

Eva has always felt like a disappointment in her mother’s eyes, but even more so now that she has failed her exams. She is working part-time while she studies for her resits, dreaming of when she can go to university, and get away from her family.
Her mum, Kathleen, is drinking even more than usual these days, and the void between them is deepening. They say you never get over your first love, and Kathleen knows that more than most. She met Rick when she was sixteen, and was swept away by his charm and charisma.
But their romance stayed behind closed doors and, years on, Kathleen still bears the scars of what he put her through. And Eva has not been an easy child to love. As Eva and Kathleen struggle to connect, will the very thing that drove them apart be the one thing that can finally bring them together?
– See more at: http://www.carinauk.com/the-lies-between-us#sthash.lgcVTd1f.dpuf

Every family has secrets … but some keep them better than others.

Eva has always felt like a disappointment in her mother’s eyes, but even more so now that she has failed her exams. She is working part-time while she studies for her resits, dreaming of when she can go to university, and get away from her family.
Her mum, Kathleen, is drinking even more than usual these days, and the void between them is deepening. They say you never get over your first love, and Kathleen knows that more than most. She met Rick when she was sixteen, and was swept away by his charm and charisma.
But their romance stayed behind closed doors and, years on, Kathleen still bears the scars of what he put her through. And Eva has not been an easy child to love. As Eva and Kathleen struggle to connect, will the very thing that drove them apart be the one thing that can finally bring them together?
– See more at: http://www.carinauk.com/the-lies-between-us#sthash.lgcVTd1f.dpuf

The Lies Between Us introduces the reader to Eva in the 1980s, a strong young woman struggling to deal with her failings in exams, her mother who drinks far too much and her father who seems to be too easy going about it all.  But she knows she wants to get away from it all and leave it all behind.
The narrative then jumps to Kathleen in the 1960s,  again a young woman, who is excited about starting a new job, finding the beginnings of young love and enjoying the freedom that growing up brings.
As the story unfolds you see that Eva is the daughter of Kathleen and from Eva’s perspective her mother is cold, hard, distant and drinks far too much.  But only when you read the chapters narrated by Kathleen do you realise the reason behind this persona, the hardship she has endured, the life she has lived up to that point has all hardened her to her surroundings and made her the person she is today.  Kathleen tells how her life was turned upside down by loving an older man, the fall out from that relationship and how her life was never the same again. 

The overwhelming grief and loss featured in this book are very real to the reader, Kathleen’s grief does make you feel sorry for her and understand her problems and you start to think “if only she would tell someone”, she is not the only character affected by this theme, almost all characters encounter grief and loss in this book.  Without spoiling the book for anyone I won’t add who suffers or what their sufferance is.

I liked that the narrative jumped between mother and daughter, it added something “more” to the story, just as Eva bemoaned the situation, a chapter narrated by Kathleen would follow and you would begin to understand the behaviour that Eva could not fathom.
The book ends well, in so much as the reader is not left asking “what happens next?” it is neatly concluded, explanations are given, characters all seem to have a final moment and the whole things closes out neatly.
The characters are likable (on the whole), and it is easy to follow what’s happening, despite the 20 year time jumps between chapters.  The book is very well written, and I would say that Dillon writes the overarching grief theme incredibly well, so much so that you do times feel sorry for characters, you almost want to reach out to your own family afterwards, and I will admit that I did send my mother a message after reading this to tell her that I love her.  

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fiction, mystery, stories with strong characters or enjoys “women’s fiction”.

I would like to thank Carina UK for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book was published yesterday, 13th August 2015.  A copy can be purchased here The Lies Between Us (Kindle Version UK) and thank Marian you for a wonderfully enjoyable read! 

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What Milo Saw

Author : Virginia Macgregor
Paperback Published:  August 2015
Reviewed: August 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Milo Moon, the little lad with a big heart, that will have you falling in love with him from the first chapter.

 

4 out of 5 stars

A cleverly written piece of contemporary fiction with humour, sadness, delight and grief thrown in to keep the reader on their toes.
Right from the start you find yourself rooting for the lovable nine year old Milo, you don’t quite know what his plight is on the first page, but you know already that you feel a need for things to work out well for him.  Only when you read more do you discover he has a degenerative eye condition, a deep rooted love for his Gran, and a unique outlook on things.
This is the sort of book that you will promise yourself ‘just one more chapter’ before you do the dishes, and find yourself hours later curled up still chuckling away at something said, or crying out for justice for those who can’t win. 

Milo lives in Slipton with his mum Sandy, Gran Lou & Hamlet his pet pig.  The story opens with the aftermath of a house fire caused by Gran trying to make tea.  Deciding that caring for 92 year old Gran who suffers with dementia, Sandy decides it’s time for Lou to go into a home for appropriate care that cannot be provided at home, but to Milo this is betrayal.  To him, his mum is shipping his Gran off and he will do everything in his power to slow proceedings.  When that doesn’t work, he hatches a plan to bring her back home where he believes she belongs.  The story continues with Milo’s struggles to understand why Gran has to be in the nursing home, named “Forget Me Not” and his determination and perseverance to spring her from there.
As the story progresses more characters are introduced, Tripi a Syrian refugee working as the cook at Forget Me Not, the whistling neighbour Mr Overland,  Al (aka Clouds) working as an undercover journalist who is also family & Nurse Thornhill the director of Forget Me Not, as well as the residents of the Home and various minor characters who all play an important role helping the story move steadily along, and gave a better understanding of the story and events.

Without wanting to ruin the story for readers, I’ll not post spoilers, I certainly would not have wanted to find out the ending before joining Milo on his journey so I will avoid taking that from you, but what I will say is that seeing things from a nine year old’s perspective, the black and white view of reality is brutal at times, the disappointment that a nine year old can feel with an adult was painful at times to read.

This book had enough to hold my interest without overloading me with too much information, the plot was structured so I had to find out what happened next, how it would end and the charm of Milo made me stop and think.  There’s a lighthearted thread running through this book, which makes it an easy read, but very enjoyable.  The descriptions are good, you can almost see the fairy lights on the stairs, see Hamlet with his different coloured ears, and taste the baklava, you can imagine the characters, especially the ones where the descriptions are given by young Milo, his unfailing logic and perception add something to the description of Mrs Hairy! 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good enjoyable piece of fiction, or something as an easy read, i.e. that can be picked up and put down (if you can!) without losing track of what’s happening.  For me, finishing this book was both happy and sad, happy that things had worked out for some, but sad at how it ended for others, but it made me wonder what it would be like to be more like Milo, see what else is there, concentrate on the other things that are there and ask why. 

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The song jumped into my head the other day in one of those deep thinking philosophical moments.  Village life can be quite lonely, in a “you don’t see many people going about” sort of way, but then as it’s the school holidays I don’t suspect that many people will be in the village, instead opting for a summer break whilst they can.

Last week was one of those where you think about doing a whole list of things, but actually when it gets down to it, you do none of them but instead enjoy just doing what you can.  Monkey child is finding her feet, which as cute as it is, is somewhat slightly alarming now that nothing will be safe ever again!!  Poor dogs are running scared of the crawling monster that tries to chase them, I am her usual choice of climbing frame (oh joy!) and she is standing and pulling herself up at every opportunity that presents itself.  I did jokingly say to family that I think she’d be walking before she was 1, but I’d really like her to stop being all grown up and be my wee baby again hahaha
I’m still in disbelief that my little baby will be 1 in less than 2 months now, where has this past year gone!?

Did something brave today, came back from our usual walk round the village and decided that I’d go grab the car keys and we’d head to the next village to get cream for the red bit under the teething monster’s chin.  This is big for me, I don’t tend to get in the car unless I plan where I’m going, know exactly where I’m going, that there’s space to park and so on and so on (see a trend here!?) but anyway we did it, got in the car and headed to the pharmacy.  Cue the panic at the tight bends in the next village,  having to pull in between cars to let people passed on the narrow streets, then parking in a car park that was new and narrow so a 9 point turn was needed to turn the car round and park somewhere that no one else would park beside me haha but I did it, and it’s a victory for me.  It may seem silly, but I really am proud of that, it took courage to do it, and right now I’m low on courage.  There are too many “mood hoovers*” out there who would dampen that moment for me but to them, I say a resounding childish “pffffffffffffffffffffft!”

Whilst I was too lazy to blog anything last week I did stumble upon some interesting tweets and have offered to review a book on this ol’ blog.  Always toyed with the idea of writing reviews of the copious books I’ve read, so embarking on a literary journey as well as a rambling (sometimes knitted related) – wish me luck!

Once the copy of What Milo Saw arrives I’ll have a review posted asap!

*to quote a friend of mine, she hit the nail on the head with that phrase.

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