Life with two Smalls and a fistful of daydreams

290octToday my parents, sister and I travelled to Leeds to attend the final ever service at Meanwood Methodist Church which has been our family church for many years. Weddings, christenings, funerals, Sunday School, Scouts, Brownies – all sorts of things. Friendship and family, love, fun, worship, memories beyond measure.

It’s slightly strange attending a funeral for a community building – the same bittersweet emotions as any funeral except you have to stand inside the perfectly healthy, living building and say goodbye to it anyway.

I took this photo after the final service finished – it hurts thinking those pews will never be full again.

291octMonday means MDanz for Tori & Arthur and this week they had pom-poms. Yes, I joined in. It was awesome.

292octWe’ve lived in our house for over a year now and whilst I was in Leeds Caius finally transferred the pile of pictures in the front room onto the stairway wall. And my guitar too. It was lovely to come home to and makes me smile whenever I see them – I especially love the canvas of the Smalls when they were small.

293octCaius randomly suggested taking the kids to the park after school – then I discovered he had his mini quadcopter in his pocket and realised there was an ulterior motive ;)

294octSinging Simba stopped singing. We fixed him because we all love Simba.

295octTori has apparently been working hard on her handwriting and remembering her finger spaces – I’m very proud of her.

296octToday we went to Birmingham for an ‘adventure’ – we took the train because the Smalls have been begging to go on a train for ages. We didn’t really have a plan and it turned out to be a great day of window shopping, exploring, food and discovery. We visited the gallery and museum and then headed into the library. If you haven’t been to the Library of Birmingham then go. I want to live there, it is amazing. As is this photograph of Artie & Caius I took there whilst we were sat watching random people playing Ping Pong for free in the library basement level outdoor amphitheatre. (I told you the place was awesome.)

cbaEEnid Blyton’

When it comes to childhood reading, there are some authors who trip off the tongue of almost everybody. Enid Blyton is one of those.

First up there’s Noddy and his little red and yellow car – I remember having a board book where the little car ends up floating in some water, possibly the sea, which was (and still is, somewhere I think…) stuck together with aging sellotape on the spine. If you didn’t read the books then you probably saw the TV version and loved that instead. Everybody loves Noddy, although I now have the theme tune stuck in my head which is a little annoying.

By far and away though, my very favourite Enid Blyton books were the Famous Five and Secret Seven series; I had the books, the audio cassette tapes, adventure game books and a couple of the Famous Five videos (both original series and the modern one).

I wanted to be in the Famous Five off on adventures across the countryside, catching smugglers and solving crimes with the trusty Timmy at my side. Reading these books made me dream of being brave and discovering secrets about the world – they opened a world of imagination in my head away from the usual fantasy theme of my reading.

I made up passwords for my bedroom based on whatever password the Secret Seven had used in the last book I read, I had a cuddly dog named after Scamper and I spent a lot of my time trying to ‘shadow’ people in the street (and imaginary people in the garden) after obsessively listening to the tape of Go Ahead Secret Seven.

The books still receive a lot of criticism and yes, they are pretty formulaic and predictable now I look back at them but when I was younger they were amazing. That formula Enid Blyton was using was like magic and made her books addictive and compulsive.

The characters from Famous Five and Secret Seven all live in my head now like old friends – sometimes something happens that reminds me of them and I smile to myself. Julian, Dick, George, Anne, Timmy, Peter, Janet, Colin, George, Pam, Jack & Barbara (and Scamper!) still whisper in my mind when I’m out walking sometimes and I find myself musing my way through a pretend FF or SS adventure to pass the time.

The books are timeless, the stories are still fun and full of adventure even though time has moved on from when they were first written. And as for the people who wanted to update them – I think it is insulting. Leave them be.

283octMy sister and brother-in-law were up in Shropshire this weekend with their lovely dog Kew. Tori & Arthur are both a bit nervous around dogs usually so it was great to see them confidently making friends with Kew. We went for a lovely family walk around Colemere and at one point poor Kew had three leads on and wasn’t sure which way to walk!!

284octTori decided to sit and read her school reading book to me whilst I cooked dinner today.

285octWhen Artie skipped out of pre-school this afternoon, I noticed that his shoes were looking more than a little sad so we jumped in the car and drove to the giant Asda in Telford to buy him some new ones. We had dinner in the cafe too and this Bakewell Cheesecake was AMAZING!

286octHaven’t made curry at home for ages – had a sudden urge this evening.

287octGave in to the weather today and wore wellies for the school run this morning.

288octIt was a bit chilly this morning so Arthur cuddled up under Caius’ hoodie to watch his morning dose of Cars.

289octLooking out of my parents’ dining room window we realised that it was really, really raining over Wem even though we were bathed in glorious Autumnal sunshine!

cbaDDaughter Of Smoke And Bone Trilogy’

I bought the first book in this trilogy by accident. My Mum had a book catalogue that you had to order X number of books from and one month there wasn’t anything she particularly wanted so she told me to choose something instead. I picked this book because it had one of the most beautiful covers I had seen in a long time – I didn’t notice that it was a new release, hard back edition. All I saw was the pretty.

Those softly glowing metallic purple feathers, the slightly whimsical font and the cryptic tagline – I was completely sold before I’d even glanced at the blurb.

I wasn’t let down by the contents either, the world Laini Taylor builds in this trilogy is incredible. A brilliant blend of the world we know and worlds we don’t held together by the most fantastic cast of characters.

Karou, the main character of the series is one of my favourite characters of all time. She is feisty and self-assured but can also be shy and uncertain when everything gets too much. She loves with everything she is and finds strength in that, even when it seems that everything is too bleak to be resolved.

Taking the age-old premise of Angels and Demons and taking them to a whole different level, Daughter Of Smoke And Bone breaks the ‘Angels are good’ and ‘Demons are bad’ stereotypes as well as sticks to them. It is very clever and serves very well to highlight the humanity in both sides – and the total lack of it, too.

I utterly lose myself in these books and their characters, the world is so well built and clear that it is hard not to. Whilst I was reading, I dreamed these worlds and even though I have finished the final book of the trilogy a couple of months ago now, I still dream them and often find myself thinking about the characters and mulling over events in the story. They have firmly stuck in my head and are more than welcome to stay.

I adored the first book so much that I preordered books two and three so that I would get the full set of beautiful hardback covers. They are all stunning with their metallic gleams and incredibly simple but striking details. That and because both the first two books ended on such horrendously gut-wrenching cliff-hangers that I had literally no choice but to order the following books!

The concluding novel, Dreams Of Gods And Monsters, sat on my bedside table looking pretty for months because I couldn’t bear to pick it up and read it and bring the whole adventure to a close. And because I was afraid that I would be disappointed after loving the first two so very much.

When I did finally read it though I was relieved to discover it was just as good as the others. It didn’t hold back and pulled a few punches that I really weren’t expecting and finished in a way that was completely satisfying and perfect for the story.

I don’t want to give the ending away but I thought the reality of the ending was just brilliant – it didn’t have the sickly sting of ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ or a soul destroying ending of doom but a delicate balance somewhere in between.

All I can say is if you haven’t picked this series up, then do it. But if you cry at books a lot (like me) then have tissues handy because you’re in for a real rollercoaster ride.


Find What You Love And Let It Kill You: Stories About Love by Thomm Quackenbush 

Illustrated by: N/A

Series: N/A

Published: Createspace, February 2014

Edition: Kindle

Narrated By: N/A

Length: 101 pages

Genre: Short stories, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Reflection

Where Did I Get It? Kindly received from the author in return for an honest review.

Summary (from GoodReads): An anthology from the author of the Night’s Dream series on what makes us all tick. Alternatingly heartwarming and heartbreaking, hilarious and horrifying, Find What You Love and Let It Kill You vivisects the heart through fiction and personal reflections.

It includes the stories:
Getting the Slip – How does one handle being told the exact cause of one’s future death?
Always Darkest – When a friend comes back to life, can you handle the consequences?
So It Passed – The inspiration for the novel We Shadows.
Facing the Sunset – A daughter grieves for her dying father.
Alyssah Julianne – The transformation of a father holding his daughter for the first time.

And several others.

Opening Lines (From ‘Tarantella’):

The gun presses against Dan’s temple. One question rushes though his head: does he have time to put down the television?


My Review:  First up, I love the title of this short story collection – it immediately caught my attention and made me want to pick it up. Find What You Love And Let It Kill You is a mixture of short stories both fiction and non-fiction reflections all with the linking theme of love in all its guises.

The first half of the collection is made up of the fiction stories, all followed by short pieces explaining their inspiration or the reason they were written. Some have been in previous publications or were competition entries that have been revisited and tweaked.

I must confess to not being a fan of a lot of the stories although I did enjoy Tarantella in particular. I liked the open-ended storyline – it was hopeful but not conclusive and I found this very satisfying.

Thomm Quackenbush has a brilliant touch with words – he manages to create very clear scenes and can convey a lot about a character in the limited space required by the short story genre. I just felt a few of the stories needed something else – I don’t quite know what exactly but there was something missing which meant I struggled to read more than one story in an evening rather than romping hungrily through them.

In contrast to this though, I thought the non-fiction selection of stories were just fantastic. They were touching, full of real, raw emotion and made me laugh, nod along and on more than one occasion burst into tears. I almost wanted them to be longer – they were snapshots into life and I desperately wanted the whole story in between.

Overall I don’t think Find What You Love And Let It Kill You was for me but if you are a fan of the short story genre it could well be a gem.

My Rating: 3/5*

276sepToday we went round to visit English Folkfan and the Smalls enjoyed playing outside in this beautiful Indian summer weather. Tori loves Caius’ old trike now she is big enough to really reach the pedals.

277sepMonday is a busy day for the Smalls – they have Street Jazz dance class after school and they are always tired by the end. When I went in to check on Arthur he was totally flopped out, it gave me a bit of a chuckle.

278sepGot the proofs for the Smalls’ school photos today – how cheesy is their sibling photo?!

279octBefore the heavens opened and tried to wash us out of existance (I wasn’t sure we’d make it home from school without a boat) I did a bit of weeding in the front garden and met this little chappy.

280octI was very impressed when Tori wandered in to the kitchen to show me this play park she had made all by herself out of Duplo.

281octSometimes you see something and just *have* to buy it. This was one of those things

282octThis is the face of a girl who has just been on her first ever limo trip. She and Arthur both went to their friend’s birthday party and then Tori was one of the special few who got to stay on at the end and go on a tour round town in a limo with the birthday girl!

Review Tour

You may remember I was part of the big cover reveal for Gustavo Florentin’s The Schwarzschild Radius back in August, well now it’s time for the Review Tour too.


The Schwarzschild Radius by Gustavo Florentin

Cover Artist: Andrea Garcia

Series: N/A

Re-Released: Curiosity Quills Press, September 23rd 2014

Edition: Kindle

Narrated By: N/A

Genre: Detective, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Where Did I Get It? I received an electronic copy of the book as part of the review tour.

Summary: Rachel, an 18-year-old Columbia University student, descends into the netherworld of runaways and predators to find her sister, Olivia, who has suddenly disappeared.

After getting a job in a strip joint where Olivia worked, then doing private shows in the homes of rich clients, Rachel discovers that Olivia has been abducted by a killer who auctions the deaths of young girls in an eBay of agony.

When she finds Olivia, Rachel becomes the killer’s next target.

Opening Line:

Ancient Greek philosophers used a face-slapping technique to ingrain a point in the student’s mind; here, it conveyed the truth that the girl was going to die.

My Review: You can tell straight from the blurb that The Schwarzschild Radius isn’t going to be a rollercoaster of laughs but it is certainly a rollercoaster. Not one for the faint of heart, either.

The very first chapter sets the scene in a way that clearly lets you know that Olivia is in big trouble and not the sort that is easily solved. The Webmaster is cool, collected and utterly merciless as he displays Olivia like a prize cow and encourages the bids in on whatever forms of pain and torture the clients desire – highest bidder gets to choose the next move. There is no limit to the depravity – it is whatever the clients can imagine up, so long as they pay then the Webmaster will arrange it and film it for them. The final stage of the auction comes when the girl can take no more and then they bid on who gets to choose how she dies.

Most of the story is told from Olivia’s sister Rachel’s perspective as she desperately tries to follow her sister’s last known footsteps and finds herself in places she never thought she’d see and doing things she never thought she would do. But desperation can give you courage and Rachel sets her limits and sticks to them, giving herself the chance to dig up some secrets from the dirty minded men who may well have been the last people to see Olivia alive.

Rachel is a great character, she is intelligent and well-grounded and doesn’t easily slip into her sister’s secret second life. She has major reservations about what she is capable of and has very natural reactions to the situations she finds herself in. There is a heavy weight of fear over the whole book but perhaps mostly in the chapters from Rachel’s view – she knows why Olivia was doing what she was doing but it is not a world Rachel is naturally equipped to survive in.

Detective John Mckenna is running the missing person case on Olivia. He is ex-army and was an excellent sniper – this makes him excellent at spotting tiny details that other people overlook but can make him seem very detached when he really gets into a case. His own marriage fell apart after he left the army and he hasn’t seen his own daughter for years so Olivia’s case really strikes a chord with him and he goes all out to solve the case.

Focused as he was, I didn’t find McKenna a particularly striking character. He was key in the end but most of the footwork seemed to be done by Rachel, almost to the point where I forgot he was around at times.

There are other viewpoints in the book, mostly of the men Rachel finds herself performing private strip shows for. These men are mostly lonely and sad, they are all rich enough to afford these shows and to tip in the hundreds but they all share a similar taste – they like their girls underage. Rachel spends most of her time pretending to be a fourteen year old to satisfy their primal urges – and the chapters written in their voices, explaining their feelings about their desires and the like are deeply unsettling. They all sound rational and normal aside from their disturbing fantasies about children – more than fantasies in some cases.

It is not an easy subject matter but Gustavo Florentin handles it brilliantly – you feel uneasy but never to the point of putting the book down. Instead some of the most engaging and interesting characters are the ones you want to hate because of their depravity. There is some very clever characterisation and it makes for some very compulsive reading, The Schwarzschild Radius was incredibly hard to put down and stayed on my mind whenever I stopped reading and well after I finished the book.

There are some very graphic scenes and it is not for anyone with a delicate disposition but as a look into the darker side of humanity and a cleverly twisting mystery thriller it is a fantastic read. I thought I had it all worked out but was proved completely wrong at the last turn, something I love in a book.

My Rating: 5/5*

If you want to read The Schwarzchild Radius for yourself, head on over to the Curiosity Quills website. Check out some of the other great books they have released recently whilst you’re there.


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