Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
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Monday, 2 March 2015

Leonard Nimoy - A Great Man Who Will Be Missed

I often feel sad when favourite actors pass away, but for Leonard Nimoy I actually cried. I saw a post on Livejournal saying that he had passed away and that was it; it was hanky time.

I was lucky enough to meet him for a few brief moments a couple of years ago at a convention. He seemed like a very nice man and very caring of his fans, which is something everyone seems to agree on. It is so sad he has been taken from us.

Star Trek has had a huge impact on my life. I remember watching reruns of the original series as a child and the show was full of so many things that simply stuck in my brain. I blame Star Trek and Star Wars for my love of sci-fi: Star Trek for my love of what I think of as pure sci-fi and Star Wars for sci-fi with a hint of fantasy. I was the head of the Star Trek society at university and I am proud to say we were the biggest non-political or non-religious society on campus at the time.

Mr Spock was one of the things that stuck with me the most. He was intriguing and different and fascinated me. Looking back is amazes me how much depth Leonard Nimoy managed to get into a character who wasn't supposed to show emotions. Those eyebrows could convey a thousand things through just a twitch.

I'm a big fan of Mission Impossible as well, in which Nimoy plays Paris, a retired magician who is a master of disguise and can play any role. I remember first seeing him in it and being shocked when he laughed and joked, because I had only ever seen him as Spock before.

He was a great actor best known as a stoic alien and I will always appreciate the impact he had on my life. I love him in The Original Series, in the movies, in Next Gen and I think he was an inspired addition to the reboot. Spock aged gracefully, as did the man who played him and it feels like he's a distant uncle who I've grown up always knowing from afar.

My thoughts are with his family and friends at this time of sadness and I hope it gives them some comfort to see how many people he touched in his life.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Nostalgia Reading - My Favourite Childhood Books

I remember several stories fondly from my childhood and unfortunately I cannot remember what books they were from.

For example I remember a big red book that had lots of children's stories in it including one about a pink rabbit that was shivering (it turned out to be made of pink jelly) and a brother and sister where the brother was allowed to cut the cake, but the sister would be the one to pick who had which part. I have no idea which book they are from, but they have stuck will me all these years.

However, there are a couple of books I do remember very clearly. One was Grimm's complete Fairy Tales (I'm not sure what edition) and I absolutely loved those stories. I'm sure my love of fantasy started with them, although it would not grow until a few years later. The other set of books I remember from that young age are the My Naught Little Sister stories by Dorothy Edwards. I was most struck by when she ate all the silver balls off a cake :).

My parents always encouraged us to read and always read us bedtime stories and I have appreciated the written word ever since. I must admit I was almost put off that one year when, for Christmas, Sophie (my twin) was given three lovely different books and I got three copies of Little Women. I can only think that everyone decided we were the right age and I was the oldest so I was given Little Women. I have held a grudge against that book ever since.

Here's another confession, I have never really liked the traditional literary classics like Dickens and Austin. I have quite a dislike for Dickens actually, except his ghost stories, but I think that may be to do with being forced to study Great Expectations at school. Although I love Shakespeare; but then who doesn't like dirty jokes and lots of violent death? ;)

However, there is one classic I do love and that is The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkien. This is the book that bloomed my love for fantasy. To be honest I have never actually read it myself. It was read to us at primary school when I was about seven and it created a love for epic fantasy in me that has never gone away. The ideas and races and the quest settled in my bones and that was the moment I knew I wanted to write as well as read.

Speaking of the Hobbit, does anyone else think there may have been a primary school version of the book, or at least an agreement between primary school teachers about where to stop reading? I didn't know half the dwarves died for years, as far as I was concerned the story ended when they got the mountain back and beat the dragon and, having spoken to some friends, as children they thought the same.

There are many other books I read and loved as a child, but these are the ones that always stand out in my mind.

What are you favourite childhood books? Do you remember the book that first made you love reading?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: Jupiter Ascending - Dune on Acid!

Title: Jupiter Ascending
Rating: 12A
Mila Kunis ... Jupiter Jones
Channing Tatum ... Caine Wise
Sean Bean ... Stinger Apini
Eddie Redmayne ... Balem Abrasax
Douglas Booth ... Titus Abrasax
Tuppence Middleton ... Kalique Abrasax

Illegal Russian immigrant Jupiter Jones, works as a cleaner with her mother and Aunt. However, her cousin convinces her to sell her eggs to make some money, only the doctors try to kill her rather than do what they're supposed to. She is saved by Caine West, a genetically engineered soldier and bounty hunter and finds out she is intergalactic royalty and her non-Earth family want her dead.

I really enjoyed this film. I'm not saying it's the best made, best plotted or even best acted film doing the rounds, but it is still highly entertaining. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, even if parts of it are utterly ridiculous.

This is space opera making no excuses for what it is. I have mentally started referring to it as Dune on acid, because that's the vibe I got. Rather than feuding great houses it has one great house who are looking to one up each other, and since they are functionally immortal the only way to do that is assassination with Earth the prize.

We learn in their first scene that the Abrasax 'harvest' planets and Earth is the prize plum, but I'm not going to reveal how or why because that would be a spoiler. This is actually part of the plot that makes perfect sense :).

The rest of the plot has holes you can drive a space freighter through. It felt to me as if they wanted to make the film another half hour long because huge bits of the plot are missing. Since the whole plot it completely obvious from beginning to end I can guess what they are and they might be saving them in hopes of a sequel, but they are definitely lacking. I may muse about them in a different post with spoiler warnings all over.

However, that being said, it really didn't matter a whole lot. It's not exactly a complex plot, so missing bits don't cause much of a problem and it's still an enjoyable romp. This plot is about as deep as a small puddle, but then it never claims to be anything else.

So, on to the characters:

I have seen Jupiter Jones being accused of existing only as a Mary Sue (a character who gets the guy, solves the whole plot and is simply extraordinary in all ways) - she's not. The only thing Mary Sue about her is her name. She's a really likeable, sympathetic character who is strong enough to survive, but is not the be all and end all of kick ass femininity. Mila Kunis is brilliant in the role and brings Jupiter warmth and humanity and courage.

Now if you want a Marty Stu (male equiv of a Mary Sue) let me talk about Caine Wise. He has a tragic back story; he's stacked; he's a human splice in that he has wolf in his DNA; he used to have wings; no one can beat him in battle. Now here we have a totally, one hundred percent, Marty Stu character - but I love him anyway. I have to admit I am slowly coming round to Channing Tatum - his movie choices have mostly turned me off in the past, but with this and Whitehouse Down, I have to say I rather like him. In JA he's kick ass, but vulnerable at times too without wallowing in man pain.

Sean Bean is great too. The two ladies sat next to me in the cinema had only come because Sean Bean was in it :). His character is part bee - I think it's supposed to give him really fast reflexes, but I was very disappointed he didn't actually have a sting. SPOILER (highlight to read) HE DOESN'T DIE!!!! I think the universe may be ending.

Then we have Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton as the slightly deranged Abrasax family - interstellar royalty. They're all very pretty and well turned out and slightly more evil than the next going from Kalique though Titus to Balem. They all pull it off beautifully and in different ways. Kalique is never actually proved not to be on Jupiter's side, although her main motivation seems to be the downfall of her brother Balem. Titus is an evil little shit of a playboy who uses lies and manipulation and Balem is a sociopath of the first order like a good Bond villain.

If I was going for Dune analogies I'd say Balem is the Emperor, Titus is Feyd-Rautha and Kalique is Alia before she went completely nuts. However, the actors do bring nice touches to their roles that make them their own.

The special effects are mostly superb. I was totally convinced by the cyborgs and various animal splices, along with the flying machines, the space craft and just about everything. There were only two things that I thought needed improving:
At one point there is a fight between Wise and a big dinosaur humanoid with wings and there were some long distance shot parts of it that just didn't look real.
Anti-grav roller blades - they looked ridiculous. I could have definitely lived without them :). I suppose they just didn't want him using repulsors or something like that.

There was really only one thing I didn't like and that was that a couple of the fight scenes were simply too long. There was one in particular that is the equivalent of a car chase and I was bored by half way through. It could do with cutting.

I would happily go and watch this again and it will be going on my pre-order list. It's silly, but it's exciting and fun and really easy to watch.

Have you seen Juptier Ascending? What did you think?

Monday, 16 February 2015

The joys of word count - how long should a novel be?

I've seen a couple of people talking about the word counts of their work recently and it got me thinking about the subject. It's one of those subjective topics and it depends on what genre you're talking about as to what constitutes a novel.

According to the Nebula Awards the lengths of the various categories of fiction is as follows:
  • Short story < 7,500 words
  • Novelette 7,500 - 17,499 words
  • Novella 17,500 - 39,999 words
  • Novel > 40,000 words
This is the standard we use on the Wittegen Press website to sort our books so that customers can see books by length. We chose it because Sci-Fi and Fantasy are some of our favourite genres and we needed some sort of guide and this was one. However, if you investigate a little further there is quite a lot of debate about word lengths.

Some people say a novel is anything over 50K words (NaNoWriMo for a start), not 40K words. Others aren't interested in anything less than 75K or 90K.

Some of it is very dependent on genre as well.

When researching this post I found a very interesting article by literaryrejections.com about what agents are looking for depending on genre. If you would like to see their whole post it is here: Word Count @ literaryrejections.com.

I find it very interesting that they list Romance as being anything from 40K to 100K, where are Sci-Fi and Fantasy don't even start until 90K even though the Nebula awards defines novels at much lower lengths. I can only assume this is to do with the difference between established writers and new writers. It is easier to sell novels of a certain length so agents looks for those word counts; once you have a fan base varying lengths are an option.

What do you consider novel length? Do you expect different lengths from different genres? Do you even care?

Do you prefer a book description to tell you how long the book is?

The Avebury Legacy is 99c until 20th Feb (60% OFF)

Nate and Lexie have been infected by a vampire, they need to find the relics from the legendary Avebury ritual for a hope of a cure. Exciting New Adult adv.

Buy Links*:
Amazon | Smashwords | Google Play | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Inktera | txtr

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Avebury Legacy - Audio Chapter 1 Scene 1

So I have made a recording of the first scene of The Avebury Legacy so people can have a listen. I used Audacity and a ProSound Podcasting Mic, so I hope the quality is really nice to listen to.

Let me know what you think :) Thanks

The Avebury Legacy is also 99c (60% OFF) until 20th Feb - so get it while it's hot.

Buy Links:

Amazon | Smashwords | Google Play | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Inktera

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Audacity - The Wonderful Free Cross-platform Recording Software

I'm part of a promotions group called BooksGoSocial - they have very reasonable prices and will tweet about your book and promote it on their mailing list and lots of other wonderful things. However, the best thing I have found about this promotion service is their author group. I am learning so many things thanks to the advice of other authors and the wonderful author who started the whole thing: Laurence O'Bryan.

One of the things BooksGoSocial has to help their members promote their books is a SoundCloud Channel for book excerpts.

That got me thinking because SoundCloud offers recording options, but I always like to get things perfect before going anywhere near online. I know lots of people already know about Audacity, but I thought I'd make a post about it anyway for those who don't.

Audacity is the answer for anyone trying to record sound quickly and easily. There are many wonderful things about it, and here is a list of why I love it.
  • Great user interface - very straightforward
  • Multiple tracks
  • Noise reduction filters
  • Lots of other filters
  • Easy set-up
  • Exports to mp3
  • Is FREE unless you wish to donate
  • They have a wiki with all the tutorials and help you need.
  • They also have a manual with everything
I used to use a headset mic to record, which works perfectly well, but now I use this ProSound USB Podcast and Vocal Microphone, which gives a much clearer sound. Mine came from Maplin, but they are available all over.

With the noise reduction filter, however, standard headset mics work fine.

This is a detailed post by How To Podcast with lots of useful information: Audacity Tutorial for Podcasters. There are also many other useful posts on the web, just ask Google :).

No1 tip (found on a podcasting group):

The first thing to do when making any voice recording with Audacity is to record several seconds of silence. The most useful thing I ever use is the noise reduction filter and you have to set up a noise profile for this to work. The recording of silence is in fact the noise you will later remove, so I always make sure to never skip this step. This part of the wiki tells you what to do after that.

Happy Valentine's Day and 99c Offer on The Avebury Legacy

Happy Valentine's Day to one and all.

To couples or moresomes, I wish you all the love and romance in whatever degrees floats your boats :).

To all the singles, be it from choice or from circumstance, I wish you lots of love. Love of family and friends, love of pets, love of a good book, love of your favourite TV show or movie, love of chocolate, just love, lots and lots of it.

Whoever you are, with someone or not, I hope you have a great day.


Now on to that special offer I mentioned.

The Avebury Legacy is 99c from today until 20th Feb - that 60% OFF.

When you're a vampire hunter infected with vampirism your life expectancy is short. Nate's a hunter and Lexie's a witch and they have less than six months before Lexie's magic can no longer delay the symptoms and keep them at least partially human. They must find the relics from the legendary Avebury ritual for a chance of a cure.

Buy Links:
Amazon |Smashwords |Google Play | B&N |iBooks | Kobo |Inktera

I also have a brand new blog post all about the book: Love, Relics and Vampires – The Avebury Legacy over at our Wittegen Press blog.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Anyone know of any good Valentine Blog Hops going on this year?

I was just wondering if there are any Valentine Blog Hops going on this year?

I usually see some, but I've tried Google and I can't find any that aren't specific. Like there seems to be a crochet one, but I'm looking for general ones or books ones etc.

Many thanks if you know of any.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Recipe: Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Cups

I love peanut butter, but I don't really like the peanut butter ice creams on the market, so armed with my new ice cream maker I decided to have a go at my own :). If you've seen my previous Speculoos ice cream recipe, this is based on the same principles.

Lots of recipes have a custard base, but I have found this one to make a very creamy, but lighter texture ice cream. The semi-skimmed milk helps to lift it.

  • 250ml (1 cup) semi-skimmed milk (skim milk)
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cup) double cream (heavy cream)
  • 160g (3/4 cup) caster sugar (superfine)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g (1 cup) smooth peanut butter
  • 16 mini peanut butter cups, roughly chopped
  1. Place all the ingredients except the peanut butter cups into the pyrex jug.
  2. Mix carefully with the small whisk - you are not trying to whisk the cream, just break down the spread so it mixes with the other ingredients so take it slowly. You'll end up with what looks like cream with tiny golden flecks floating in it.
  3. Place the mixture in the fridge for at least 30 mins to chill.
  4. Chop the peanut butter cups into 3 or 4 pieces and place in a bag in the fridge to chill.
  5. My ice cream maker works best if I turn it on 10 mins before using, but check your manufacturer's instructions and turn it on when required.
  6. Pour in your mixture, making sure not to fill it more than 2/3rd (60%) full because ice cream expands as it chills.
  7. Set the timer for as long as your machine recommends - for me it was 25 mins with this recipe.
  8. After 10 mins of churning, add the peanut butter cups.
  9. When churning is complete (the ice cream should be firm and it should be of a uniform colour - all the flecks disappear between 5 and 10 mins before the end) remove it from the machine to the container in which you are going to keep it and put it in the freezer. It will take between 2-4 hrs to finish freezing.
When you are ready to serve remove the ice cream 10 mins before it is required.