Friday, 18 April 2014

Frivolous Friday: New Birth

Easter has always been special. Unlike Christmas, it's a more introspective time for me. Must be something to do with a real person - not just a book character - being willing to die for me. Pretty humbling that. And then there's the promise of new birth that comes with Easter Sunday that always fills me with joy.

Up until my move to England, all my Easters were spent in the southern hemisphere where the world is slipping majestically into Autumn. Now, I love Autumn, I really do. Little can beat the golds and reds as the trees turn, but as romantic as that is, Autumn still bodes death.

Spring, on the other hand, means life and new beginnings. Deep, huh! Yeah well, that said, this Easter in England has been a totally new experience as Lincolnshire bursts into life around me. I don't think I've ever seen such a profusion of blossoms of every hue. Every tree is laden with flowers, sending me into sensory overload.
My blossoms amid the blossoms

And then there are the daffodils - growing wild in places, exactly as Wordsworth saw them over two hundred years ago.

I wandered lonely as a cloud . . . 

How can I fail to mention the bluebells in the woods? My mind goes into overdrive, imagining fairies around every tree stump.

And then there are rape seed fields burning yellow as far as the eye can see. Set against the blue sky (yes, sometimes it is blue, even in England) and the emerald grass, the golden yellow is insane. Only a master creator could have envisaged something so magnificent. Pity my photo doesn't do it justice.

Rape Seed Fields

I  know Easter is for everyone, everywhere, but I can't help think there was a real significance to the tomb opening in Spring in Jerusalem. Here's wishing you all a wonderful Easter whether you believe or are just enjoy enjoy the bank holiday. May your weekend be filled with joy.



I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Frivolous Friday: When The Fun Fair Comes To Town

When I was a kid I loved Enid Blyton's books, especially her adventure stories with the Famous Five and, maybe less so, the Secret Seven. Apart from thrilling me with exciting tales in which children did extraordinary things (that, in a day when kids were seen and not heard and adults controlled everything), she also introduced me to the wonder of the English countryside.

I was enthralled by her descriptions of secret islands, haunted castles, forbidding forests, and green meadows where sheep grazed and noisy dogs chased rabbits. But her most enduring legacy were the tinkers and gypsies. I still sometimes (often) dream of packing it all in and taking off in my horse-drawn caravan, complete with pots and pans dangling from the back bumper. Only today my caravan would be Andrew and my handcrafted, custom-built four wheel drive camper designed to go anywhere as long as the countryside is stunning and far away from people . . .

Reality check!

Part of the appeal of Enid Blyton's gypsies and tinkers was the fun fair that always accompanied them where young adventurers could get themselves into no end of trouble from shifty-eyed tambola operators.

The old and the new.
That church is about nine-hundred-years-old. I bet it could tell a tale or two  . . .

Travelling fun fairs were pretty much alien concepts where I grew up, so the idea of a hundred colourful caravans pulling into town loaded with thrill rides was utterly enchanting. I would dream of eating toffee apples (yuk) and candy floss (not much better) while winning that blue-eyed doll at the archery stand. Dreams are great . . .

So imagine my delight this week when the fun fair arrived unexpectedly in my town. (Okay, everyone else knew about it, but see my point above about getting away from people. My hermit tendencies often mean I miss out on the cool stuff.)

Back to my story.

Unfortunately, my discovery of the fun fair came when I was looking for parking. So, instead of being enchanted, I was just plain irritated. It seems that fifteen minutes spent inching along narrow streets - care of our medieval town planners - cluttered with colourful caravans and enormous thrill rides does that to me. What a let down.

Having teenage girls helps though, and E & K, my pair, where not missing out on a chance to have their teeth rattled from their heads while being shot a hundred feet into the sky by a giant hydraulic catapult, so we grabbed a group of friends and hit the fair.

Even though the weather was misty and cold (it is spring in England, after all) I'm happy to announce that my heart was warmed by the experience.

Enchanted, in fact. But to honest, I have to admit that was mainly the result of all the twinkly lights - another obsession of mine - sparking on every ride, luring us suckers in. Unable to resist the gaudy horses, I fell for a carousel. It was fantastic! I felt like a child again.

So, how do take a good pic of a carousel?
Because this certainly isn't one.

Did I see any shifty-eyed tombola operators? Nah. They must have all been off at some forbidden castle chasing banshees . . .

Enjoy the pics . . . and have a wondrous weekend filled with fun.

I couldn't resist this.
Every time I see a giant tea cup I am reminded of Lilith from Cheers telling Fraser to go an find his manhood on the giant tea cups . . .

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Balanced on the Blade's Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Lindsay Buroker is one of the few authors for whom I will rearrange my reading schedule, so when she called for reviewers for her latest book, Balanced on the Blade's Edge, I was there. Just like I stopped what I was doing on Facebook (mindless trawling, if I'm honest) to follow the link to her help-me-choose-a-cover-for-said-book post. Happy to announce that I picked the cover she finally went with. Don't you just love it?

So, all this might lead you to believe that I am biased about her writing and that you can in no way trust this review. Not so. I love Lindsay's work but I'm not totally blind to her quirks and foibles. To find out more, read on . . .

Balanced on a Blade's Edge is a gripping, fun read in which we meet two charming characters: Ridge and Sardelle.

Ridge is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants colonel with more demerits than medals who is sent as a punishment to command a vital prison mine in a hostile environment. I loved him. Great character and I would definitely like to read more of his exploits. How about some novellas of his early days, Lindsay?

Sardelle is a sorcerer who went into stasis three hundred years ago and woke to find her world destroyed, and now a bunch of blood-thirsty, sex-crazed miners are rummaging through the rubble. Luckily the new commanding officer is hot and seems to have a interest in this strange new 'prisoner'. . . Sardelle has all the usual kick-butt qualities we expect from Lindsay's heroines. But what made her interesting was that although she has mega-power in a world of mundanes, she can't use any of it in case the numbskulls burn her at the stake for being a witch. Nice twist. It also made for a sizzling ending.

So with characters in place, what follows is a typical Lindsay Buroker extravaganza. Regular readers of her works will recognise - and love - the usual sharp-witted banter that flows so easily from her pen. They will also be familiar with another of her favourite plot devices . . . yes, there is another deluge scene. Lindsay does love destroying things with water, and it makes fun reading even if it is a bit predictable. There, you see, not a blind reviewer throwing out bouquets - there's an implied criticism there. I admit to an eye roll when the water came, and yes, it robbed the story of its fifth star. But maybe that's just me . . . The rest of her readers may still love the water.

What I did love, though, was the freshness of the:
1. Setting. A prison mine that was once the home to a dynasty of sorcerers. Good stuff!
2. The magic. I loved the concept of Jaxi, the soulblade who could speak in Sardelle's mind. To find out more about that, you will just have to read the book.
3. Flying. That was fun, but I would have loved to know more about the flyers Ridge flew. 
4. The ending. Coooool! And so unpredictable. Only trouble was, I was miserable when it was all over.

So, yes, I loved Balanced on the Blade's Edge and would definitely want to read more about these characters. I am sure that world has a place for a wild flyer colonel and a displaced sorcerer. 

How about it Lindsay?


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