Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Cooking with Spooky: Chocolate Brownies ... sort of

I love a good sweet treat but, because of my lack of an oven in my flat, I can't bake as much as I once did.  However; the OH has a proper kitchen and basically take over on a weekend so I can muck about.  I used this recipe because I'd been told they produced great brownies.  Don't always trust advice; or at least don't just hope on someone else's baking skills. 


So I melted all the butter and chocolate together (well, most of the chocolate; I did "test" a little bit) and let that do it's own thing for a while, so I could then weigh out all the other ingredients into nice, little bowls; like on Blue Peter.


I mixed in the blender the eggs and the sugar together in a mixer until they were liquid, like a thick milkshake, and folded them with melted chocolate & butter mix which should be cooled down by now.  I didn't wait until it was completely cooled and my egg mix wasn't thick enough.  You need to know this now to understand why my results aren't .... photo-gorgeous.


Then the cocoa powder and flour mix gets added in and it should be all completely mixed together.  An even mix is the best thing to aim for.  The recipe asks for you to add in more chocolate chucks but  it's up to you really.  Pour the mix into a prepared tin so it can be put straight into the hot oven.  

Then comes the cleaning up:


Once it's cooked for the full time length, have a look in the oven to make sure the brownies looked cooked on top.  The middle of the tin shouldn't wiggle at all so bung it back in for a bit if it does.  I think I was impatient and so took mine out a little too early.  My end result was a bit too gooey and I had to eat it with a spoon until I had the good idea to put it in the fridge to set more.  It came out much better afterwards.

Not a 100% success but it still all magically disappeared


Friday, 17 April 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens GEEK EXCITEMENT

So ... this little bit of beautifulness appeared on the world wide web last night: 


After I regained my "cool" and stopped manically retweeting links to the teaser, I knew I wanted to blog about it.  Star Wars was one of the key pieces of parental hand-me-downs that I was given.  My Dad was a massive geek and gave me an education in Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings that is ingrained in my childhood.

I'm not *the* biggest fan; I can't name you the specs of the various crafts or droids but I know I love these films.  How can you not?  They are on a scale that is rarely matched in cinema with the possible exception of the LotR series.  Maybe.

This trailer: Why is it so fucking marvellous?

We get a proper look at the new key cast which is bloody awesome.  Looks like a killer line-up!


Plus; I've been excited for this little fella ever since the first teaser and to see little clips of him from the Star Wars Celebration main presentation (where the second trailer was debuted) has me very excited.  He's REAL!!!


BB-8 OWNS MY HEART AT THE MOMENT


Apart from the fantastic original trilogy nods and references, (melted Vader mask anyone?? I shivered seeing it for the first time.), it was this moment that stole the show:


It's doesn't matter that he's aged; he's still Solo and always will be.  

Space Westerns are going to own the world once again and I can't wait to let it take over my life.  Quite frankly, they can cancel Christmas because I won't have time to notice it anyway; I'll be in the cinema watching this over and over instead.



Blog Tour: Thoughts on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

GoodReads

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .


This isn't a standard review because, frankly, I'm bored of them and I don't think I could write one for this book.

Good Omens is a big thinking book that I had a real battle with while I read it.  Having never read anything by Terry Pratchett, I told advisement on which book to pick for this Terry Pratchett celebration blog tour.   

Firstly; this book has a great story in it and the right level of nuts that I approve of in any book.  An Angel and a Demon that are vague chums, end of the world happening in a small English village outside Oxford and a witch with a vague sense of the future working with her great-great-great- etc granddaughter.  The idea is perfect and the blend of British humour that Pratchett is a champion of is the cherry on the cake.  However, it is a Thinking book and I really do need that capital T on there.  It's smart in a way that if you're not paying enough attention, you could miss it or just get rather confused.  

Something I did like was the fact that you couldn't tell that it was written by two people.  It's possibly one of the best examples on how a book should be written by dual authors.  The work is seamless and, as a reader, this is exactly how you need it to be.  Otherwise you end up having a preference for one authors' "sections" over the others.  These two author giants were clearly a match made in crazy literature Heaven.

Overall, Good Omens is too big a story to explain in a witty review.  It was a bit of love/hate relationship whilst reading it because there were moments were I couldn't put the book down and others when I wasn't fussed about picking it up at all.  Perhaps it was my mood rather than the book.  I'm glad I've cracked my way into the world of Pratchett and would be interested to try something written solely by him and perhaps more fantasy in its genre.  This book is probably as close to a contemporary novel by Pratchett as you can get.  

Good sense of humour and an interesting look at humanity and faith but not the easiest of reads at times.

Check out the rest of the Pratchett blog tour, organised by the wonderful Serendipity Reviews, by following the hashtag #terrypratchettblogtour 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Review: True Face by Siobhan Curham

GoodReads

We are living in the age of the image - the perfect image. From the constant bombardment of air-brushed photos, to the dubious lifestyle choices promoted by celebrities and the obsession with social media, young women are under pressure as never before to project a persona of perfection. And this is having a catastrophic effect, with girls as young as seven developing eating disorders and female self-loathing reaching epidemic proportions.

True Face shows you how to resist the pressure from the 'perfection police' and take off the masks you wear to proudly reveal your true self to the world. In chapters dealing with body image, bullying, social media, love, sex and more, Siobhan Curham encourages young women and girls to be honest, dream big, and create lives that are happy and fulfilling. Keep Calm and Carry On is replaced by a new mantra: Forget the Fake and Keep it Real. This book is a breath of fresh air. Perfect for ages 13+ - and for the Girls fan in her 20s/30s too!

Review

I was a very happy bunny when this book dropped into my post box.  Siobhan Curham is a wonderful spokesperson for this great cause: getting young people to Be Real.  In a world of fake words, fame and landscapes, it's hard not to get caught up with it all and allow yourself to become corrupted by it.  It's not surprising but it's not something to be overlooked either.  We need to give teens the tools to brave and defend themselves against all that the world throws at them.

True Face is a self-help guide book, of sorts, that is aimed at young girls but I have no doubt that the ideas it discusses can apply to boys as well.  Covering a wide range of issues from body image to social media, True Face hopes to tell teens that they can exist in the 21st century without having to settle for a lesser version of themselves.  They can do better by simply being honest and to question the world around them.

Divided into bite-sized chunks, the book is an easy read that lets the reader dip in and out of the discussions as and when they need to.  It doesn't come across and "preachy" or mystical in it's approach; it's simple, plain talking.  It might seem hard to do some of the challenges but they are all there for a good reason; to test yourself.

Siobhan has produced a book that could do some amazing things for young people and tied into the book's release is the True Face website: http://truefacerevolution.com which is regularly updated with posts and new ideas that people can get involved with.

A great piece of literary inspiration in a world that is often filled with fake voices that can cloud your judgement. 
Published by Faber Children's Books and is available online and in bookshops now

Friday, 10 April 2015

Review: Remix by Non Pratt

GoodReads

From the author of Trouble comes a new novel about boys, bands and best mates.

Kaz is still reeling from being dumped by the love of her life... Ruby is bored of hearing about it. Time to change the record.

Three days. Two best mates. One music festival. Zero chance of everything working out.

Review

To say I was keen to read this new book from Non Pratt is putting it mildly.  I feel I should probably say a sorry to everyone at the Walker Books UK offices for bothering them over the last few months with tweets.  In my defence, Non's debut novel, Trouble, was an utterly glorious read and should be forced into the hands of as many teens as humanly possible.  

Remix tempted me with just a few words: music festival.  I lived my teen years as a big-time gig-goer.  Friday at 9am was a time of immense anxiety as I did the internet dance to buy tickets before they sold out.  Good Times.

Remix is told as a dual narrative from the POV of two best mates, Kaz and Ruby, over the course of three days.  They leave for a music festival; the headliners being one of their all-time favourite bands, and over these few days they have to deal with their past problems, current situations and prospective futures.  Kaz and Ruby are firm friends but are also very different in how they deal with the world:  Ruby is a wild-child and Kaz is more reasoned with a leaning towards shyness. 

It's a given that I was going to love this book because the premise is so "me" and because it's written by Non Pratt (aka YA contemporary GENIUS).  Non doesn't write the teens on the telly or the imagined versions of ourselves in those younger years; she writes the warts-and-all teenage years and it's perfection.  She just "gets" it.  I loved the contrast of characters and the highs and lows in such a short space of time because, lets face it, when you're a teen it feels like an emotional roller coaster everyday.

This might be one of the easiest reviews I've written in ages.  Remix is a smasher of a follow-up to Trouble and proves that Non is going to go from strength to strength, in my opinion.  Music lovers will adore the little nods and accuracy of Remix when it comes to loving bands so much that it hurts.  Well done, Non.  Well done.
Published by Walker Books UK and is available online and in bookshops from June 2015

Monday, 6 April 2015

Review: Muddle Earth by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

GoodReads

Where would you find a perfumed bog filled with pink sticky hogs and exploding gas frogs? A wizard Randalf with only one spell, his ogre cook Norbert and his familiar, sarcastic blue budgie Victoria? In Muddle Earth, anything can happen - and usually does. Joe Jefferson, ordinary schoolboy from ordinary earth, becomes warrior-hero Joe the Barbarian, and conquers Englebert the Enormous ogre, Margot the dragon, and evil mastermind Dr Cuddles of Giggle Glade.

Review

I'd had this book sat on my TBR shelf for absolutely yonks after buying it on a whim.  I was told it was a very amusing book and that I'd probably like it so I nabbed it and it remained on my shelf for over a year.  Shameful, but I've finally read and ready to give my thoughts.

Muddle Earth is a book of madness and a bit of mayhem.  It's a bit of comedy, lots of adventure and a dragon.  As we all know; a book can be made twice as good by simply adding a dragon.  The mis-matched gang of questers are a comedy goldmine with the bickering between Randalf the wizard and his budgie Victoria along with his sensitive but clumsy Ogre cook.  Of course, every adventure tale needs a Warrior-hero and ours is in the form of Joe, an average, young boy who's been plucked from our world by accident along with his dog.  Between them, they must defeat the horrid Dr Cuddles and please the Horned Baron.  Just your average day in Muddle Earth.

This book is a wonderful collection of nonsense that pokes fun at fantasy stories, namely Lord of the Rings, but in the way that you make fun of a beloved family member: you laugh but you do it in a caring way.  It's full of lovely wacky moments that, out of context, sound too silly to even work but they really do.  This book is a great book for reluctant readers as it's a proper sized book but can be easily read in bite-sized chunks.  It's made up of lots of moments and mini-adventures so it's a good bed-time read as well as an indulgent one for a Sunday afternoon.

Funny, silly and gorgeously illustrated by the master that is Chris Riddell, who picks the perfect moments to capture in pen and ink.  Excellent stuff for all ages.
Published by Macmillan Children's Books and is available online and in bookshops now

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Writing in Stages: The Editing Bit

So...

I've been working on a WIP for a little while now and on Christmas Eve I finished the first draft to much delight.  I even went and treated myself to a McDonalds dinner to pat myself on the back for a job well done.  I put the WIP away for the holiday season and tucked into a lorry-load of carbs.  Bliss.

I came back in January, ready to tackle the project again and make it even better.  I was going to edit the crap out of it.  I opened the file and looked at the first few chapters and thought "What the actual fuck.  I didn't write this shit!!"  Only to realise that I did write that shit and it was now my job to clean up the fuck-ups.

Bum



I've been lucky enough to have the OH offer to do some editing notes and thoughts on my project but I had to put it into a good-enough shape to send his way.  I tweaked and tidied all over the place and hoped he wouldn't noticed lump of errors under the rug.  He has, the bugger.

However, editing has meant I've learnt a lot about my writing and how I work:


  • I tend to make up words.  This can be a good thing but what isn't a good thing is when I use made-up words, believing they are real words, and then have to either explain to the reader what they are or use a 'proper' word.
  • My spelling and grammar isn't nearly as bad as I thought it was.  For a dyspraxic person, like myself, this is a big achievement.  However, on the flip-side of this, I do tend to have an odd way of explaining things.  I tend to write around the houses (all the houses in the South East, in fact) and instead of using one sentence; I use five...of fifty.
  • You have to go into edits with an Edit-head on.  This is very different from a Writing-head because you have to stop looking at the brushstrokes and start looking at the whole landscape.  An Edit-head looks at notes and says "Right; let's do this!" and a Writing-head looks at them and cries whilst eating ALL the Ben & Jerry's.
  • My first edit won't be the last.  I'm not stupid and I'm not expecting to pass this to an agent next week and it be accepted.  It'll need more edits and hopefully a few more eyes on it to give me some constructive critique.  The more thoughts you get; the better writer you can become.
  • Edits can be fun.  No; seriously.  Yes, it is work and can be painful but it's like a puzzle with all the pieces already laid out for you (with a few hidden down the back of the sofa).  The hard work was the first round of writing because you had nothing but a blank page before you.  At least this time, there is stuff there.  Always a little bit less scary.

The most valuable thing I've learnt is:


Whatever happens with this WIP; I will learn something from it and can use it for the next WIP.  If it doesn't make the grade this time; maybe the next one will but it is never wasted time if I learn from it.

xo