Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ARC #Review - The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

The Wolves of Winter


Author: Tyrell Johnson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Published: January 2, 2018
Page count: 304
Genres: science fiction, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, feminist fiction
Date read: November 3, 2017
Number of times read: 1
eARC kindly provided by NetGalley









Summary

Station Eleven meets The Hunger Games in this ruthless, captivating story of a young woman’s survival in the frozen wilderness of the Yukon after the rest of the world has collapsed.

As the old world dies, we all must choose to become predators. Or become prey.

The old world has been ravaged by war and disease, and as far as Lynn McBride is concerned, her family could be the last one left on earth. For seven years, the McBrides have eked out a meagre existence in the still, white wilderness of the Yukon. But this is not living. This is survival on the brink.

Into this fragile community walk new threats, including the enigmatic fugitive, Jax, who holds secrets about the past and, possibly, keys to a better future. And then there’s Immunity, the pre‑war organization that was supposed to save humankind from the flu. They’re still out there, enforcing order and conducting experiments—but is their work for the good of humankind or is something much more sinister at play? In the face of almost certain extinction, Lynn and her family must learn to hunt as a pack or die alone in the cold.

Breakout debut novelist Tyrell Johnson weaves a captivating tale of humanity stretched far beyond its breaking point, of family and the bonds of love forged when everything else is lost. Reminiscent of Station Eleven and The Hunger Games, this is a classic and enthralling post‑apocalyptic adventure and a celebration of the human spirit. -- via NetGalley

Review


When I read the description I was expecting the usual trope-riddled YA dystopia that we've become used to with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent and their ilk. This is not that. And I couldn't be more pleased by that. I enjoy those YA series (well I have issues with the endings of both of the aforementioned series but that's another matter entirely), but I really like that Wolves of Winter was different. I've never read another dystopian novel quite like this one, and I have read my fair share of dystopian novels. In my experience, it's rare to find a non-romantic, female protagonist in the 18-35 age range, and Lynn, at 24 falls squarely in that range. As a 31-year-old, I find that really relatable and pleasing. Sure there was a small bit of romance but it was incidental to the point of being inconsequential, which is another refreshing change from the usual love triangle. This is set right after the collapse of civilization - and it's such a realistic and plausible collapse that you can totally see something like Johnson's scenario actually happening - which makes it somewhat terrifying in my opinion. I also really love that it's set in Canada, but you know, personal bias there.

So if you're looking for dystopian fiction without some of the usual tropes (don't get me wrong, it still has LOTS of the tropes), or you're interested in a new adult character instead of a young adult, or even if you just want to read more Canadian genre fiction (the author lives in BC) then I would say you should consider checking this book out. It was a really fun read and I can't wait to get a physical copy when it comes out.

I'm undecided on whether or not I hope it becomes a series. It ended openly enough to have at least one sequel, and it definitely has series potential. But I also think it just ended really nicely to act as a stand-alone leaving the reader hopeful that everything will work out for Lynn, Jax and the rest of the world.

If you're looking for a dystopian novel with a 20-something protagonist instead of a teenager, and you like post-apocalyptic survivor stories, this one is for you!


Overall Rating


5 bolts

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Calendar Girls - Dec 2017 - favourite book published in 2017 - #CalendarGirlsBooks




Calendar Girls is hosted by bloggers, Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie Noell Bernard – both have amazing blogs full of fun, bookish posts. Calendar Girls is a brand new monthly blog event inspired by Neil Sedaka’s 1961 song Calendar Girl. Just like in the song, we decided to use a specific theme for each month and choose a book based on these themes! The event is meant to incite discussions with other bloggers about books we’ve read and loved, is meant to help bloggers meet other bloggers, and also for bloggers and readers to find out about blogs which they normally may not have come across! Want to know more? Click on the links above! And it’s not too late to jump on the Calendar Girl train! Join now!


Favourite Book Published in 2017


Well, it's the last Calendar Girls 2017, and personally, I think it's been a superb inaugural year for Melanie and Flavia! And I am looking forward to continuing in 2018. This is actually kind of a tricky category for me. I think I am unusual among book bloggers in that, I really don't read a lot of new releases. Between an always growing unread book collection at my house (about 250 at the moment), working in a library, and having easy access to audio and ebooks through my public library, I read a lot of "older" stuff. At the time of writing this, I have so far completed 142 books for the year, and of that, only 10 are books that were published in 2017. Two of those 10 are audible special editions of previously published books and 1 is a new English translation. The 10 books published in 2017 that I read are as follows:


  1. The Handmaid's Tale - by Margaret Atwood, Audible Exclusive edition narrated by Claire Danes published on April 4, 2017
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander published on March 14, 2017
  3. A Darkness Absolute - by Kelley Armstrong, published February 7, 2017
  4. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - by Mackenzi Lee, published June 27, 2017
  5. The Love Interest - by Cale Dietrich, published May 16, 2017
  6. Meddling Kids - by Edgar Cantero, published July 11, 2017
  7. History of Bees - by Maja Lunde & Diane Oatley, published in English August 22, 2017
  8. Faith, Volume 3: Superstar by Jody Houser, published May 10, 2017
  9. Bring the Heat by G.A. Aiken, published August 15, 2017
  10. Mockingbird, Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda by Chelsea Cain, published May 2, 2017


Now which one ended up being my favourite book published in 2017? Let's see:

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Week 11 - Quarter Finals and Musicals Week

Take your seats please ladies and gentleman, the curtain is about to rise on MUSICAL WEEK.  As I said last week, this is only just behind Movie Week in my enjoyment stakes.  It's probably because I enjoy the whole Musical genre and have seen a few in my time, as a young girl I used to go regularly with my parents and still kick myself that I chose not to go and see Les Mis, a show I have since come to love but never seen live.  I have however seen Phantom three times and would happily go again.  Anyhow, I digress so let's see how our remaining six couples fared this evening, treading the boards, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowds.....wait hang on?  Never mind!

Our pros and celebs opened with an Oliver inspired routine with a very high pitched AJ (was that him singing or lip syncing, I can't tell), he was an adorable and perfect choice for Oliver but the dance was a big theatrical routine, perfect for setting the mood for the evening ahead.

First up tonight it's Hello Gemma, or is it Dolly? Who can tell? Well actually, it's Gemma and she was dancing the Quickstep with her partner Alijaz.  It was a great opening number to begin with, she had the fun and quirkiness of the Quickstep but you could tell she was tiring towards the end and her frame suffered.  Still, overall it wasn't a bad dance but compared with some of the others, she needs to be upping her game considerably to make it to the final.

Next, we had Mollie and AJ with their Grease inspired Rumba to 'Hopelessly Devoted'.  Not a traditional Rumba, which so far have all been sexy and sensual.  This was more of a sweet and innocent dance, in context with the song choice. However, they lost marks for yet another illegal lift.  This isn't Mollie's fault, it's the choreography at fault which is down to AJ. He did the same back in Week 2 when they did the Tango so he's already been told once this series.  At this late stage, the last thing the celebs need is to lose marks because of sloppy choreography from the so-called pros.

After Mollie was my favourite Joe and his partner Katya.  He was doing the Samba, another dance that has caused some problems this year.  His music choice (Money Money from Cabaret) also seemed destined for failure and not suited to a Samba, however thanks to some wonderful choreography from Katya this routine really worked.  Not only did it work, it worked really well and I'm still gunning for Joe to lift that Glitterball, it would make me so happy.

Next up were a couple of Cats, Debbie and Giovanni.  Dancing the American Smooth to 'Memory', it was beautiful, elegant, graceful and yet again some fantastic moves and lifts which would be tough on a 29-year-old dancer, never mind someone who is 59.  I don't care how much background dance training Ms McGee has had before, I would be happy to see her in the final.  She has a wonderful connection with Giovanni and this comes across in their dancing.  A deserved spot at the top of the leaderboard.

The Argentine Tango.  Phantom of the Opera.  Oh my, the mood is certainly dark for Davood and Nadiya to take to the floor, or should I say be lowered to the floor.  With flashbacks to Blackpool, Davood drops from the ceiling complete with a Phantom mask to be met by his Christine.  I liked the dance, I like the theme however Davood did seem to wobble quite a bit, especially when catching Nadiya.  He was the first male celeb to tackle the AT but I'm afraid he didn't really shine.  Like Gemma, although he isn't bad the standard is too high and the competition too fierce for mistakes to be made here.

Closing the show we have Alexandra and Gorka.   Now I love Mary Poppins, although I haven't seen the stage show which is probably why the song lyrics were not the ones I am used to.  it is Musicals week after all and not movies.  What really threw me though (apart from poor Gorka trying to pronounce Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and please don't ask me to type that again), no my real issue was Alexandra's outfit.  Whilst I understand that it would be impossible for her to dance a Charleston in a long skirt traditionally worn by Mary Poppins, therefore a short skirt I can accept.  However, could it not be a short skirt version of her iconic outfit? Gorka was spot on as Bert but if you showed me a photo of Alexandra and asked me to guess the role she was playing I would not have been able to tell you.  Also, the boots she wore made the dance seem clunky and heavy despite how technically accurate it was.  Not a dance for me but she clearly impressed the judges landing joint top of the leaderboard with Debbie.

So at the end of Saturday night, this is how we looked


Debbie & Giovanni39
Alexandra & Gorka39
Joe & Katya37
Mollie & AJ31
Gemma & Alijaz29
Davood & Nadiya29

So how will the public vote influence who makes it and who has to dance off?  Quite a lot it would seem.


Onto Sunday nights show and a flashy opening number from the Dreamgirls and pros and then onto the really good stuff, the voting.  No surprises in that first into the dance-off is Davood.  He was a the bottom and he did struggle.  However, proving she is not popular with the public, it's another dance-off for Alexandra.  To have gone from top to bottom means she must have had either the fewest public votes or almost the fewest.  I think we know where this dance-off is headed, much like last week.  Unless Alexandra face-plants the dance floor, it's obvious who the judges will save.  To give Davood the credit he deserves, he did dance better the second time around and corrected a few wobbles but it was no contest and four judges votes put Alexandra through to the semi-finals and Davood was sent home, with his head held high.

Next week sees the semi-final and the contestants will have to learn 2 dances each.  I've been looking at what each of them has outstanding (there will always be one dance they don't do).

Debbie - Jive, Foxtrot, Waltz (already know they are doing the Jive and Foxtrot, it was mentioned in the results show)
Alexandra - Viennese Waltz, Salsa, Foxtrot
Mollie - Waltz, Samba, Argentine Tango
Joe - Argentine Tango, Waltz, American Smooth
Gemma - Argentine Tango, Rumba, Tango

Looking at these, I think Gemma could be in trouble.  It's unlikely they will give her both the regular Tango AND the Argentine Tango which means she's doing the Rumba and we all know how hard that is.  For the semi-final, that is tough.  But we will see what next week brings us, there could still be one or two surprises left.  I can't believe there are only two more weeks of Strictly left, it's gone so fast.

Until next time my lovelies, keep dancing!



Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Week 10



So after the bright dazzling lights of Blackpool, it's back to London and back to training for the remaining seven couples.  This week sees them all fighting for a place in the quarter-finals and week 11 which is Musicals Week.  Another chance for the makeup and wardrobe team to shine but first, the celebs have to get there so, on with the show!

Opening our show tonight is Joe McFadden.  He and Katya are dancing the Quickstep to 'Jumpin Jack'.  I don't know about Jumping Jack but talk about Jumping Joe! He was lively, energetic, his pace never stopped and he covered the whole dancefloor end to end several times.  Katya's choreography got praise from the judges as well as Joe's execution of it and Shirley, in particular, praised certain trickier moves and the ease with which Joe performed them.  Another couple of 10s and two 9s saw Joe top of the leaderboard with a huge 38 points.  Not bad for an opening number.

Next up was Alexandra Burke and she was performing the Rumba! Finally, something she's not good at.  There wasn't much romance going on with this dance and she lacked emotion.  It definitely wasn't her dance this week but no doubt she'll get through, even though the judges did score her pretty low (look what happened to Aston when he scored low).  Also, the singers totally murdered the song 'Halo', cringe-worthy!

Following Alex was Gemma doing the Samba.  this routine confused me an awful lot.  The Samba is usually an energetic, lively dance, almost a party on the dancefloor (although I do get confused with the Samba and Salsa quite a bit).  However, Alijaz chose to choreograph a routine in the theme of the song, 'In The Middle of the Night' and although it was part of the routine for Gemma to look sleepy and lethargic, for me it didn't seem in balance with the dance they were performing.  Definitely not her best dance and she could be in danger this week.

Next up was Mollie also doing the Quickstep.  Mollie has been struggling lately with her routines and has been in the dance-off twice.  If she is in the dance-off again this week, I will eat my hat.  This routine was full of fun and energy, not quite on a par with Joe but excellent none the less.  I do feel she was marked down a touch by the judges but I think she should be okay this week.

Ahhh next we had Davood and he was doing the Waltz. I remember how lovely his Viennese Waltz was (when he wasn't fighting motion sickness). As a regular waltz has fewer spins than the VW, I was expecting a superb routine and I got one.  I can't believe how much Davood has grown as a dancer and how much he has improved from some of those earlier iffy routines (the Saturday Night Fever springs to mind).  He is definitely a contender for the final and well deserved. If he gets through to next week he will be doing the Argentine Tango, the first male celeb to dance this so far.

Speaking of the Argentine Tango, up next was Debbie McGee doing hers.  I have to say I loved this.  It started off really slowly, but sensual and sexy like it should be but her steps seemed to be carefully controlled.  Then the music took off and so did Debbie.  Her footwork was quicker and yet still so controlled and added to this were more splits and twists.  Definitely worthy of the 38 points and joint top spot on the leaderboard.

Closing the show tonight was Susan and Kevin.   They were dancing the American Smooth to 'Beyond The Sea', a song which I love.   I thought what she lacked in technique she certainly made up for in entertainment.  However, with such a high standard of dancers left, she will struggle to stay and will have to rely on the public vote to keep her in.  Perhaps she has finally run her course.




So by the end of the dances, the leaderboard looked like this


Joe & Katya38
Debbie & Giovanni38
Davood & Nadiya35
Alexandra & Gorka32
Mollie & AJ31
Gemma & Alijaz25
Susan & Kevin21

But wait, the celebs have more to do.  Yes, it's the Pasodoblethon (no idea on how to spell this, it's not a real word but it looks right ;) ) All seven couples were on the dancefloor and dancing the Paso Doble.  There were certain rules, no lifts were allowed, all couples had to be aware of each other's space to avoid any collisions and capes were optional.  Ooooer!   I absolutely loved Giovanni and Gorka squaring off before they started, it was brilliant.  All couples were dressed alike to avoid any distractions from outfits and all couples had to keep dancing until the end of the music.  The judges would then rank them from 1 through to 7 and the couple ranked 1st would get an extra 7 points added to their scores on the leaderboard, the 2nd couple would get 6 points and so on down until the bottom couple who would just get one extra point.  So the Pasodoblethon results looked like this


Alexandra & Gorka7
Joe & Katya6
Debbie & Giovanni5
Davood & Nadiya4
Gemma & Alijaz3
Mollie & AJ2
Susan & Kevin1


So looking at the scores for the final leaderboard, no change to the order, just making Joe clear at the top rather than joint with Debbie.


Joe & Katya44
Debbie & Giovanni43
Davood & Nadiya39
Alexandra & Gorka39
Mollie & AJ33
Gemma & Alijaz27
Susan & Kevin22

So on to Sunday night and the results.  First of all, there was a fabulous opening routine from the pros based on Fashion Week.  I had to look twice as I thought they had Beyonce in to perform before I realised it was Oti!  The highlight was the 'designer', it was Bruno Tonioli and oh my, he looked perfect!

So the main thing you are here for (are you still here? Good!)  The dance-off and first to go in was Alexandra.  Yes, it was a shock but yes it was a poor dance for her.  And maybe it will knock her down a peg or two to know she hasn't got this in the bag.  Joining her was Susan, not unexpected but a pity because if it had been anyone else we may have seen the back of Alexandra but even Susan knew she was beaten before they had even danced.  She was hysterical, and I quote 'I've never seen a more uneven contest in my life."  She was realistic and just danced her last dance and had fun.  It was obvious that the judges unanimously voted to save Alexandra but in the humility stakes, Susan won hands down.  I will miss her as she just brought so much fun and joy to Strictly, which is the idea.  Yes, it's a dance contest and the best dancers should go through but its also an entertainment show and that was Susan all over.

So next week is musicals week and until then keep dancing


Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Week 9 - Blackpool Tower Night

Kiss Me Quick, it's Blackpool week on Strictly. The nine remaining couples are heading up North for the bouncy ballroom floor and bright neon lights of the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, the true home of dance.  Everything is bigger, bolder and brighter and everyone is upping their game and the stakes are getting higher.  No-one wants to leave and everyone wants to stay but only eight couples will make it back to London for week 10.

Opening the show tonight were Mollie and AJ. They were dancing a Charleston to 'Wings' by Little Mix.  Last year AJ got some appalling music choices for his dances with Claudia Fragapane and this year they seem to be punishing him again.  There was no way this song was suitable for a Charleston routine. AJ did the best he could with it and threw Mollie up and down in an immense amount of lifts which seemed to impress but for me, it was let down by the choice of music.

Next up were Susan and Kevin and they were dancing the Paso Doble.  This routine had been hyped up last week as Kevin revealed he had been begging the producers of Strictly to let him do this idea for the last five years and they had finally agreed.  It turned out to be the final scene from the film Strictly Ballroom.  Now I have never seen the film so I had nothing to compare it too but either Kevin was overplaying it or he needed a better partner because, for me, this fell flat.  There was too much foot stomping and too little Paso content and it just looked awkward.  I adore Kevin but I think he chose the wrong year to push for this dance, he needed an equal in talent to make this the Paso he wanted.  Deservedly bottom of the leaderboard tonight.

Then we had a real blast from the past and out came Debbie McGee as a Spice Girl.  She had the Geri Halliwell look perfected and being Blackpool she had four other dancers to make up the group.  She was dressed in the iconic Union Jack dress and she and Giovanni Samba'd their way through a 'Wannabe/Who Do You Think You Are' medley.  Only the Samba roll looked awkward for me and didn't seem to come naturally she was a little bit awkward and this didn't gel as well as one would expect.  It would have been nice if Giovanni had more to do as well, at times he may as well not have been there.  Not her best routine and overmarked by the judges.

If Debbie was a blast from the past then Jonnie went in the opposite direction and gave us a futuristic Tango. Set to the Eurythmics 'Sweet Dreams', I really enjoyed the look and theme of the dance.  However (sorry Lauren) I think Jonnie peaked a few weeks back and has been struggling of late.  His posture is awkward and either in or out of hold he no longer looks comfortable in his dancing.  However there were moments when he looked good, they were just outnumbered by those where he didn't.  I think he may find himself in another dance off this week.

Finally, we had someone who lit up the dancefloor like Blackpool deserves.  Gemma and Alijaz were dancing an American Smooth.  Again after a couple of nervy weeks where she limped through, tonight she looked like a proper dancer.  Her moves were elegant and graceful, her lifts were perfect and you could see just how much she was enjoying the dance.  Scoring her first 10s of the series, she got two of them and coming 2nd on the leaderboard was justified.

Following on from Gemma and entering the arena by parachute was Davood as James Bond.  Dancing the Paso Doble to 'Live and Let Die', this started off mediocre but then became pretty darn great about halfway through.  Much more Paso content than Susan and a much tighter performance, Davood has certainly started to emerge as a contender for the final.  he struggled in the early weeks and was saved because there were people far weaker than him, he is now proving worthy of staying in the competition and is equal to the others around him.  A great routine and his chemistry with Nadiya is fantastic. And so cute, he has lucky socks sent to him by a fan but he forgot them this week.  You don't need them, Davood!

Next up was Alexandra.  I'm sorry, I don't like her, her tears are false, she knows she's good but fakes surprise at the judge's comments and scores.  Please please do something wrong next week! This week's Quickstep, however, was good and she was almost flawless.  She's still yet to score a perfect 40, it must be so annoying for her that Debbie has and she hasn't.

Closing the show was my favourite, Joe.  He was doing a Salsa to 'Ride on Time' by Black Box.  He was very glowy in his neon shirt and he looked to be having so much fun with the routine.  Again, plenty of lifts, although the last one was rather iffy and I feel for Katya when she hit the floor (it sounds worse than it was, she slid down his body but his frame wasn't rigid enough and she kind of bumped down to the ground).  He has loosened up his hips though in the dance itself and is a far cry from the awkwardness of the Cha Cha Cha a few weeks back.  He has been better but he wasn't the worst tonight by any stretch of the imagination.

So by the end of Saturday night, the leaderboard looked like this


Alexandra & Gorka39
Gemma & Alijaz38
Davood & Nadiya35
Joe & Katya34
Debbie & Giovanni33
Mollie & AJ29
Jonnie & Oti26
Susan & Kevin25



So on to Sunday night and a lacklustre opening number from the Pros although I don't like Northern Soul so that could be why I didn't enjoy it.  Two musical numbers tonight, one from Tears for Fears with their classic hit 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World' which had everyone on their feet dancing and singing along.  Also performing were Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Michael Ball but he needs to drop Alfie Boe and get back to being a solo artist again, he might actually be good again then.

So dance-off time and in a shocking twist, Debbie McGee is the first to get the red light, followed by Jonnie Peacock.  Are we about to have another Astongate on our hands?  No, the judges unanimously chose to save Debbie and sadly we have to say farewell to the gentleman Jonnie.  He is such a lovely lovely man and has come so far, even with his disability.  The most touching aspect, apart from his respect for Oti and her choreography, was his thanks to the judges for treating him as an equal despite dancing with a prosthetic.  He will be missed a lot.

So next week sees a Paso Doblethon.  Much like the Cha Cha Challenge last year, all remaining couples will be on the floor dancing the Paso Doble and will be ranked best to worst giving them a chance to score extra points and change the leaderboard.

Until then my friends, keep dancing




Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Monday, 13 November 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Week 8


It's Week 8 and the remaining nine couples have one thing in their sights.  Blackpool!  Yep, next week sees Strictly broadcasting live from the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.  It's the home of dance and has hosted so many dance competitions over many many years and many of the pro dancers have special memories of performing there over the years.  It's always a spectacular event with great routines, great costumes, extra dancers and of course the famous springy ballroom floor.  To get there is the one aim of all the contestants but sadly one will not make it.

Following the shock of last weeks departure of Aston, one of the series favourites to lift the Glitterball means no-one is safe, anyone can be voted off so it's time to raise the bar and get your serious dancing shoes on.

First up this week was the adorable Susan.  I just love her routines with Kevin.  I think Kevin knows that he and Susan won't make the final so he is just having fun and using his talented choreography to highlight Susan the best he can.   She's had a wobbly couple of weeks of late with her Cha Cha Cha and her Halloween week Foxtrot, however, last week saw an improvement in the Jive and this week her Tango was pretty impressive.  She really gives it her all on the dancefloor and although her technique isn't always perfect, her effort is A+.

Second on the dancefloor was my lovely Joe.  Yes, he is my favourite, I have loved him from the start when he smashed his Jive in week 1 and although he was up and down for a few weeks, he has been steadily improving with a great Paso, a beautiful Foxtrot and a fabulous Charleston in weeks 5, 6 and 7 respectively.  This week saw him tackle the notorious Rumba, a nightmare for some especially the male celebs but he nailed it. It was stylish and smooth and he and Katya have a great connection and wonderful chemistry on the dancefloor.

Next came Ruth with a Foxtrot.  Ruth has been struggling lately and hit an all-time low last week with the Paso and sadly this week wasn't much better.  She was choppy and not very graceful and for once lacking in any kind of humour to save her.  Bottom of the leaderboard yet again.

However, following on from Ruth was Davood and he was doing the Charleston.   It was FANTASTIC!! He is slowly coming up and up and the others need to watch themselves because he is a real contender for the final.  He was cheeky and cheerful, he had swivel in his feet and his strength on the lifts is incredible.  Another one to watch.

Next to dance was Gemma.  Now, I really liked her Viennese Waltz.  I thought she looked very elegant and graceful and she performed an amazing number of turns at the end, so much so she went dizzy.  However, the judges didn't really rate her that highly and felt she wasn't up to standard although she did end up mid-table.  Still, I hope she's safe because I really enjoy watching her.

Alexandra was next and she and her partner Gorka were performing the first Argentine Tango of the series.  I like the dramatic feel of the Argentine Tango and I especially enjoyed the one from Lousie Redknapp last year so I was looking forward to this, even though I am not a fan of Alexandra.  She didn't disappoint me though and her footwork was excellent and the whole feel of the dance was sharp and sexy from start to finish.

Mollie was up next and she was dancing the Paso Doble.  Mollie has been in the dance-off for the last two weeks so she must have been hoping to improve but her confidence is shot.  You can tell when she dances and the judges picked up on it, although I don't feel it was as bad as they marked her. The scores won't have done well for her nerves.

Jonnie was our penultimate dancer of the evening. He was also doing the Foxtrot, it's a dance that a lot of celebs have struggled with this year and Jonnie was no exception.  After a bad couple of weeks doing Latin numbers, I was looking forward to seeing him return to the comfort of ballroom this week.  However, he looked very uncomfortable and his posture seemed all wrong.  It was almost as though he was concentrating so hard on holding his lower half in (which is hard for an athlete as that's where their power comes from) that everything else seemed to be lost and he did not look comfortable at all.  he could be in real danger this week coming in just above Ruth on the leaderboard.

Closing the show was Debbie.  She was dancing a Salsa this week, trying to emulate her perfect score of last week.  Sadly, it wasn't quite up to par and a few little mistakes should really have cost her more than it did.  I think she was slightly overmarked by the judges but it was still a great routine and a jaw-dropping spinning lift that shows just how agile and nimble she really is for her age.

So by the end of the evening, the leaderboard looked like this


Davood & Nadiya38
Alexandra & Gorka38
Debbie & Giovanni35
Joe & Katya33
Gemma & Alijaz28
Susan & Kevin27
Mollie & AJ22
Jonnie & Oti21
Ruth & Anton18


So Sunday night saw a beautiful Remembrance Day routine from the Pro Dancers and a performance from Seal, accompanied by a lovely performance from Anton and Nadiya.

Then onto the results and the first couple into the dance off was Jonnie.  Not really a surprise given his position on the leaderboard and it certainly wasn't his best dance.   He was joined in the dance-off by Ruth, which shows there is justice in the world.  So it was the battle of the Foxtrots.  Ruth went wrong after about 20 seconds and whilst Jonnie didn't look much more comfortable than he did the first time around, the judges felt he had improved and unanimously chose to save him and send Ruth home.

So once again Anton misses out on Blackpool, it's time the poor guy caught a break but sadly not this year.  it's farewell to Ruth and for the remaining eight celebs it's time to bring out the Kiss Me Quick Hats and the stick of Rock.  Blackpool here we come!

Until then, keep dancing! 




Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Monday, 6 November 2017

Calendar Girls - Nov 2017 - best end of a series - #CalendarGirlsBooks




Calendar Girls is hosted by bloggers, Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie Noell Bernard – both have amazing blogs full of fun, bookish posts. Calendar Girls is a brand new monthly blog event inspired by Neil Sedaka’s 1961 song Calendar Girl. Just like in the song, we decided to use a specific theme for each month and choose a book based on these themes! The event is meant to incite discussions with other bloggers about books we’ve read and loved, is meant to help bloggers meet other bloggers, and also for bloggers and readers to find out about blogs which they normally may not have come across! Want to know more? Click on the links above! And it’s not too late to jump on the Calendar Girl train! Join now!

Best End of a Series


I was kind of stumped for what I was going to pick for this one. There are so, so many series endings that I hate that it was hard to think of what one I would consider the best. I hated the way Mockingjay ended off The Hunger Games series, I thought that one death at the end just ruined it. I had the exact same problem with how the Divergent series ended in Allegiance. And a similar problem with Champion's ending for the Legend series. I couldn't even bring myself to finish the last book in A.G. Howard's Splintered series because I found out about her cop-out ending and got pissed off. I didn't make it to the end of the second Cassie Clare Shadowhunter series because the 5th book annoyed me and I found out that Clare is not a nice person which put me off wanting to read the last book. To this day I still have not read The Last Battle because I found out what happens and didn't like the way it ended Narnia.

I was video chatting with Angie yesterday and she pointed out that the obvious answer should be Deathly Hallows and I replied with she's right except for one very, very big reason why I will never say that book is the best ending to the Harry Potter series. The Epilogue. It was satisfying in the moment of first reading, but that hasn't lasted. I especially can't forgive the epilogue of Deathly Hallows because it begat Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is just bad - it's like badly written fanfiction and I just can't think of it as canon. So if I could say "Deathly Hallows minus the epilogue" that would be my answer. But I can't justify that because the epilogue exists and cannot be unattached from the novel, and therefore I cannot and will not pick it as my choice for best end of a series.

Now don't go thinking that I just hate series endings in general. There have been a lot of series endings that I have actually really enjoyed. I think Darkest Road ended the Fionavar Tapestry perfectly. I love how L.J. Smith ended the Dark Visions series in The Passion. Of all the Kelley Armstrong series that I've read her endings have never let me down, there's Forest of Ruin, The Reckoning, and The Rising. Patricia C. Wrede ended the Enchanted Forest Chronicles superbly in Talking to Dragons. Blood Prophecy was a satisfying ending to Alyxandra Harvey's Drake Chronicles. And really, you can't go wrong with Rick Riordan, I feel like he always ends his series really well.

So after all of that, which novel did I end up choosing as my pick for the best end of a series? Let's see:

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Week 7 - Halfway through


Welcome back my lovely dance fans.  Halfway through the competition now and only 10 couple left.  Some surprises this week, some good, some bad, some ugly.  An unexpected score of four, the first perfect 40, Craig on his knees in adoration and Anton on the floor underneath Ruth!!! What on earth is going on under those Strictly lights?


First up to dance this week is Alexandra.  She was dancing the Cha Cha Cha, which has proven to be quite a tricky routine this year.  Not many celebs who have performed it so far have come out of it too well.  Not Alexandra though.  As much as I don't like her as a person, she definitely lit up the dance floor with a fantastic performance.  It was certainly one to set the standard of the show, scoring her an almost perfect score of 39.

Following her was Mollie.  She was dancing the Foxtrot and she was certainly more comfortable to be back in hold and back to the ballroom.  Apart from a slight slip up about halfway through, she looked elegant and graceful and it was definitely one of her better dances.

Next up was the cheeky chappie Joe.  He and Katya were doing my favourite dance, the Charleston.  They were dressed as little drummers and he had the cutest rosy cheeks.  The dance was pretty great as well and it was enjoyable, cheeky, not too cheesy and very well executed.  Scoring them an even run of 9s from each judge, he's looking better and better for the final.

After Joe came Gemma doing a Salsa.  I like Gemma, she's been looking better and better as the weeks went on but sadly the Salsa was not for her.  She seemed very hesitant, as though she was scared and seemed to really struggle with it.  She had moments where she loosened up but then she'd overthink and it became laboured again.  She might be in danger this week.

Talking of struggling, Aston was doing the Viennese Waltz and again, it was not his dance.  He's definitely better at Latin than Ballroom and the whole theme of the dance seemed at odds with the style of Viennese Waltz.  He got marked 4 by Craig, he's never had a score that low the whole series, the rest of the judges were more generous with 7s but it put him next to the bottom of the leaderboard, a very unfamiliar place for him to be.

If I thought Gemma and Aston were bad, Ruth was a sight to behold and not in a good way.  She was dancing the Paso Doble and it was awful.  It was choppy, it was stompy, it was unbelievably camp and even Craig described it as a drag act.  To top things off, Anton then fell over at the end of the routine and Ruth landed on top of him (although not sure we needed the dramatics from Ruth, I won't say anymore but check out the clip for yourself.  My eyes!)  The best part of this routine was the singer.

Finally something good again and it came from the lovely Debbie McGee.  She was doing the Tango this week and although the music seemed an extremely odd choice and for me, it seemed totally wrong, but the dance itself was flawless and she scored a perfect 40.  In a Strictly first, Craig stood up, came around the front of the judge's table and got down on his knees and bowed to her, he was that blown away by the sheer quality that came from her.  Giovanni knows how to bring the best out of her and she certainly delivered this week.  The lady is amazing.


Ahhh Jonnie.  The lovely Jonnie Peacock and I really do mean lovely.  The man was looking pretty smoking hot tonight, in my mind, he's channelling Chris Hemsworth in Thor (but that could be because I went to see it Friday night) but he was looking mighty fine tonight. It's just a pity his dancing isn't as hot as his body.  He's another one, like Mollie, who is not good at Latin and needs to loosen up a lot.  Oti knows how to showcase a partner and the lifts she gave him and the trust she has in him are incredible, the routine was just let down by the lack of hip action and fluidity from Jonnie.  Hopefully, he'll be back and in the ballroom again next week, just please let's have him back in hold.

After a rough couple of weeks, Susan was up doing the Jive and oh my what a jive.  Like her Quickstep a few weeks back, she was light on her feet, she was always moving and bouncing around the floor like a trooper.  After narrowly avoiding a dance-off in the last two weeks, tonight she thoroughly deserved her place in the top half of the leaderboard.

Closing the show was Davood.  Thankfully, Nadiya has eased up on trying to be sexy all the time and focussed on his technique and made it more romantic than sexy.  Their American smooth was polished, elegant, well timed and classy.  As for that one-armed lift, it really brought the house down and was a perfect end to a fabulous show.


So by the end of the evening, the leaderboard was looking like this:


Debbie & Giovanni40
Alexandra & Gorka39
Joe & Katya36
Davood & Nadiya35
Susan & Kevin29
Mollie & AJ27
Jonnie & Oti27
Gemma & Alijaz26
Aston & Janette25
Ruth & Anton22


Very surprising to see Aston where he was but it just shows how quickly things can change from week to week.


On to Sunday night and following a Prince tribute routine from the pros, it's down to the important stuff and the votes are in.  Amazingly the first couple into the dance-off is Aston and Janette.  I honestly never thought this would happen.  Given the way he has been throughout the series, I would not have expected to see him in a dance-off this soon.  He will face Mollie and AJ who sadly have been here before in last weeks face off with Simon and Karen.  Both couples were massively improved on the night and the judge's decision was so close.  Craig opted to save Mollie, but both Darcey and Bruno opted to save Aston.  This meant that Shirley, as head judge got the casting vote so whoever she voted for went through.  In a MASSIVE shock, she voted to save Mollie and AJ which meant Aston is out.  I would have bet my house on Aston being in the final. It's a good job I don't own a house really.


So now the competition has been blown wide open and with four slots open for the final, and one of the front-runners now eliminated it really is anyone's for the taking.  Nobody can take their place in this competition for granted and they all need to be dancing their socks off to get through.

Next week sees the first Argentine Tango of the series and the remaining nine couples fighting for a place in Blackpool's famous tower ballroom. My apologies in my last post, I thought Blackpool was next week but it's the week after.  Week 9 is Blackpool week. However, it's certainly getting interesting.

Until then, keep dancing!



Week 6 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Tasty Tuesday - Chocolate Brownies



Chocolate Brownies


Ingredients
  • 175g (6oz) butter, cubed plus extra for greasing
  • 175g (6 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 275g (10oz) caster sugar
  • 80g (31/4 oz) plain flour
  • 40g (11/2 oz) cocoa powder
  • 100g (31/2 oz) pecan nuts, chopped
  • 100g (31/2 oz) fudge, diced
Equipment

20cm (8in) shallow square baking tin or silicone pan

  1.  Put the butter and chocolate into a large bowl placed over a saucepan of just-simmering water (making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water) and heat, stirring occasionally until the butter and chocolate are melted and smoothly combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
  2.  Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3.  Grease the baking tin with a little butter and line with baking parchment or place the silicone pan on a baking tray.  Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk together until the mixture is a pale colour and has doubled in volume, about 8 minutes.  Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mix and fold together.
  3.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and fold in gently, then fold in the chopped nuts and diced fudge.  Spoon the mixture into the baking tin or pan and gently level.
  4.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the brownie is just set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little in the tin or pan before turning out and cutting into 12 rectangles. Serve either hot or cold.
Enjoy!