Books · Health · Lifestyle

2020 Goals and Resolutions

Long time no see…

So as I sit and write this it is the 3rd of January, and I’ve had a lot of thinking to do over the last couple of weeks. I had a serious think about whether or not I wanted to continue on with blogging.

I have been blogging now on and off for several years, and was building it up until about April last year when I moved out with my partner and had to start trying to balance a lot more in life. Many people do it, so I know it isn’t a big deal, but for one reason or another I found it really tough to get into a routine of having a busier schedule while also still trying to fit in reading and blogging.

Cant say that I’m at all proud for letting them both slip so much, but its just the reality of what happened.

That being said, I have been thinking about it a log, and have decided to really give it my best shot this year. We have so many really exciting plans that I would love to document on my blog, so I do want to continue on with it. Or at the very least really give it a shot!!

With all that in mind, I am setting myself a reasonable simple goal for blogging this year. I am not going to set myself any views goals, or any really stat goals; all I am going to set is that I’m going to aim to post at least once each week.

Now I know that that doesn’t seem like very much at all, as I know that at one I was posting three times each week, but while I’m struggling with the balance, that’s just not doable!

Of course with that being said, if I have the extra content over the one post a week, then I will be posting more. I just don’t want to stress myself by aiming higher, while currently I’ve not  been even managing once a month. So don’t worry, if I have an extra review, it WILL get posted.

That is about it for my blogging goals for this year, and that leaves me with only two and a bit more.

Firstly, it wouldn’t be a goals post without mentioning my goodreads goal. I completely failed on my goodreads goal this year, as I had committed to 50 books within the year, but only actually managed a total of 17 books. I am far from proud of that, and it definitely needs to be worked on.

That being said, my aim or the year is much smaller, but I may add to it if I get my act together. So my goal for 2020 is twenty books! I just feel that this is a good goal as it is reasonable compared to how I managed to read last year. Plus it has a nice irony of read 20 books within 2020- ah its a bit of fun!

My last and final goal for this upcoming year, is really one of two halves. The over all goal is that me and my partner are actively trying to conceive our first baby. I’m not going to go into too much detail about this now, as Im hoping as things progress that I will document more about it, but for the time being all Im going to say is this is presenting us with challenges. In other words, its not being as simple as do the deed and get pregnant. We are seeing doctors etc, and I will talk more about it in the future.

But the second half of this that I mentioned is that I need to lose weight in order to make this easier. One again though this isn’t always that easy with my health issues, and terrible habit of comfort eating, but its something I am working hard on. Just before Christmas I had managed to lose half a stone in little under 12 weeks- I know that isn’t great, but its something I’m proud of. Now I just need to brave the scales and go back since Christmas, which I will hopefully be doing next week!

That’s it for my goals of the new year, as I don’t want to overburden myself with things Im just not going to stick to.

Do you have any goals for the new year, or things you want to improve and work on? Let me know about them in the comments as I would love to know and support you!


November TBR ’19

And here I am again doing a post 2 weeks later than it would of made sense to do it- as you can tell, I am far from organised in any element of my life at the moment! But I finally think I am finding a crutch to get me out of my reading slump; the kindle app on my phone…

So I am doing all I can to use this month to catch up on my GoodReads goal, and just my reading in general. And I feel like Im making a touch of progress so far. I have already read Meredith by Michelle Miller, a short story among a series I have been reading since summer.

My current read, and what I plan to finish next is The Selection by Kiera Cass. This is one of those books that I never thought I would actually read as I don’t think I have ever really heard any good things about it, but hay it was free. I downloaded it to read a bit of to trial it out, and turns out that so far it is pretty good, so hoping to fly through the rest of it over the next few days!

Next I am hoping to then read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling. This is the next book in my Harry Potter reread that has been going on for ages now, but hopefully now I have it downloaded onto my phone, this is more likely to be worked through quicker. Plus I’m hoping to get the illustrated edition for Christmas so would like to finish my reread of the books so I can then reread the illustrated one.

And then finally I have Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan- I had started this when I first moved out back in April, but made no progress with it really. Though I believe that this was more to do with the stress of moving, and trying to get my life organised than anything to actually do with the book. Plus I feel like this will be a nice little change from fantasy. Have you read this book and the series? What did you think?

To go alongside these three I also have the rest of the short stories in the collection that Meredith came from, so I am hoping to compete the series by the end of the year so that leaves five books for me to get through. Hopefully get through another two or three this month.

What are you reading this month?


October Reads ’19

‘Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason and plot!’ – just in case you didn’t know what the date was!

October was definitely another of those months that I can say did not go to plan! I successfully finished two books, and tried another and ended up having to DNF (Did Not Finish).

The two books I read were two of the Harry Potter scripts that I mentioned in my TBR. The Cursed Child and Crimes of Grindelwald; and wow they were amazing! Im not going to lie, the script format was definitely not my favourite, and I prefer novels absolutely, but coming out of a major slump the scripts were perfect.

The cursed child did seem a bit odd at times, but ultimately it was truly amazing! I would love to have further books, ideally novels, to follow on from this in some way or another. Honestly I think I just miss the Harry Potter world, and the fantastic beasts books just don’t quite cut it for me. That being said though, Crimes of Grindelwald was as good as any of the other Harry Potter stories, and I plan on now watching the film! Is there going to be more scripts do you know?

‘The Girl the Sea Gave Back’ by Adrienne Young was a tough one for me. I know it is a companion novel, but I had been advised that I would be okay reading that one first. But I just could not get my head into it. I just found that I couldn’t get any understanding of what was going on, and additionally, I didn’t really care what was going on. I have not had this with a book for a very long time, and after about 75 pages, I ended up just having to call it a day with this and put it back in the pile of unread books.

I have no plans to try it again immediately, however I may try the other book in the series and if I enjoy that, I may give this another go.


Guest Post: Building a Better Marriage by Destroying the Timeline Together

Great treat for you today, with a guest post from the lovely author duo Dana Fredsti & David Fitzgerald. Their second novel in the Time Shards series is out now, but this was written on the build up to the release (sorry, I’m trying to catch up)!! So sit back with your cuppa, and enjoy this piece of gold… 

Building a Better Marriage by Destroying the Timeline Together

DAVE: So, my wife and I are driving home from the San Diego Comic-Con, and the topic meanders to an idea I had for a role-playing game in college:
            Me: “The basic idea was a schizochonolinear cataclysm.”

            Dana: “A what?”

            “Um, lemme see. Okay, say the timeline is a like a stained-glass window of everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Now, imagine if that window breaks—


            “And then all the surviving pieces get put back together…”

            “Like a jigsaw puzzle.”

            “Exactly! Only now in this piece here, it’s 1776. The piece next to it is from the first century. And the one over here is from 5 million B.C., or 50 million B.C., or 500 million B.C….”


            “Right? So the characters can be from basically anytime and place you wanta Viking warrior, a Japanese ninja, Benjamin Franklin, the Queen of Sheba, you name it.”


“And they have to cross a post-apocalyptic wilderness that has everything from dinosaurs to cowboys and Indians to robots from the future.”

Her eyes got steadily bigger.

“Oh babe, we have got to turn this into a book.”

She wasn’t kidding. As soon as we got home, we began working together on a story arc, wrote the first fifty pages, and then pitched it to her agent, who loved it. She, in turn, pitched it to Dana’s editor at Titan Books.

And then the real work began.

DANA: Okay, so first of all, I did not say “whoah.” I’m not sure why that’s so important for me to clarify, but it is. That makes me sound like Tara Reid reacting to getting thrown around in the car ride in Sharknado. In fact, other than ask what a schizochonolinear cataclysm is, I didn’t say much of anything while Dave explained the idea to me until he’d finished, and then I did indeed say “Oh babe, we have got to turn this into a book.”

And, while yes, I was very enthusiastic about the idea, my eyes stayed one size during the conversation. I am not an anime character. What did happen is I got chills when he told me about the concept; it’s an amazing idea and talk about an endless playground of times/places to play in!

It took us a few months to do the initial outline and first 50 pages. We knew it was going to be a three-book story arc because there was no way to adequately tell the story we wanted to tell in one book. You get about 90k (give or take a thousand words here or there) per book with publishers like Titan, and while we tried to give both Time Shards and Shatter War (book two in the series) satisfactory endings, there’s no getting around the fact that the series story arc is not going to be finished until book three. This can cause issues with some readers, who feel it’s a marketing ploy. George R.R. Martin probably wishes he could have wrapped up GoT in one book, but that wasn’t gonna happen.

DAVE: Okay, it’s a fair cop. In hindsight, maybe there weren’t quite so many ‘Whoahs.” Maybe none, even. Anyway, I admit it; the thought of co-writing a novel with Dana terrified me a little. Not because we hadn’t co-written together, not because she wasn’t an awesome writer with the most diabolically good ideas, not because I didn’t think we could do itNo, what scared me the most was me. Unlike anything else that we’d previously worked on together, I felt incredibly possessive of this idea, and had very specific ideas of what needed to happen in the storyline, what topics we needed to address (and just as importantly, what ones we needed to ignore!). I also had a long wish list of must-have historical goodies to put in the trilogy.

But I guess all those life lessons from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers paid off, because once I let go of my inner five-year-old’s possessive streak, we soon realized that having two authors sharing a story brought twice as much to the table. Dana’s wish list was just as crazy and wonderful as mine, and while there were a few moments of “Wait, you want to add what?”, once we ran with the ideas, all of them turned out amazing.

Dana: Luckily I’ve collaborated on several screenplays, stories, a novel (these are before I started working with Dave), and co-founded a theater group back in the day, so I had plenty of experience to draw from. It also helps that I generally enjoy collaborating on creative projects. Writing can be a very solitary pastime so working with a partner can sometimes energize me when I’d rather just stay in bed and read.

Most of my wishlist for the series, btw, involves anything big and nasty and scary that can kill a person in horrifying ways. So… giant sharks, prehistoric crocodiles, dire wolves… these things make me smile.

Our morning beach walks with our dog Pógeen (it means “Little Kiss” in Irish Gaelic) turned into writing salons. We gave birth to a cast of unforgettable heroes and villains,
hammered out plot points, untangled story problems, and brainstormed wonderful and sometimes mind-wrecking craziness to befall our poor characters.

DANA: Walking on the beach also provides a very soothing environment for potentially heated creative discussions. This was especially helpful during the writing of Time Shards when we were still figuring out how to work through any initial possessiveness and I was still working on remembering how to be diplomatic. Because yeah, Time Shards was originally his baby and I needed to remember also to be grateful he was willing to share.

In Book One, we divided the work between our two main protagonists. Dana took one and I the other. Once we were done with a chapter or a section, we handed it over so the co-author could add their tweaks and notes. I had expected this is where the fireworks would be, and to be fair, we did have some good brawls over one scene or another, whether Character A would ever talk like this, whether Character B would ever do that, or even know about X in the first place.

Part of our brawls were over what I refer to as the ‘if we have a female character, we’ll show her emotions by having her bite her lip and speak softly’ phase, and me disagreeing violently with it. And to be fair, once I pointed out that this was not the way I wanted the majority of our female characters to be portrayed, Dave didn’t argue with me.

Other disagreements were because (to greatly simplify this) Dave writes in a way that serves the plot. I write in a way that serves the character arcs. So he works on getting characters from Point A to Point B because they need to get to Point C, and it’s action based. I think about what would need to happen externally and internally to justify their reactions/responses/choices to get them to these various points. Both ways of thinking are necessary to make the character arcs and story arcs believable. Sometimes one interferes with the other, but we always managed to find something that satisfied both of us.

I usually like to switch up working on a fiction project with a non-fiction project, and vice versa, because each has its own challenges. In a non-fiction book, you have to cite your sources, have footnotes, and engage in heavy research. In a fiction book, you don’t have to worry about footnotes and endnotesbut you also have to make everything up.

The problem with doing a series like Time Shards is that now you have to do both: you have to do all the historical research, and you still have to make everything up. It’s the worst of both worlds from a work standpoint, but wow, does it pay off when the book is done. We’re very proud of the series. It’s a fun read with interesting characters to root for, an exciting new world to explore, and a cosmic mystery to solve that only gets deeper as the trilogy unfolds.

Sigh. I’ve come to accept the fact that there will never be a time when our living room is not filled with library books, books we’ve bought, or books we’ve borrowed for research on some project or another. The Time Shards trilogy, however, has taken the piles of books (we could build a bomb shelter out of the books in our living room…) to new and frightening heights. Each section of the book (each ‘time shard,’ if you will) requires a different set of books. From the English Civil War to Hypatia’s Alexandria to Romford, England (several different time periods) to many other times and places… lots of books. And yes, it does pay off for anyone who reads these books and cares whether or not the authors did their best to get things historically correct, but oh my god, if there’s an earthquake in San Francisco, they’re gonna find us buried in books and beach glass. Ah well.
-Dave & DanaShatter-War_cvr_02[7745]

Time Shards, Book Two (“Shatter War”) By Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald comes out Sept. 24th, 2019 – at least, in this portion of the timeline… OUT NOW!


October ’19 TBR

This is it, I am going to get back to my Goodreads challenge, and wow have I made my life hard. At the start of the year I had set my challenge at 50 books, and as of now – the beginning of October – I have only read a total of 13 books. That leaves me with 37 books to read in 3 months!! If I am honest, I don’t know if it is even possible, so I will be happy if I can hit 40 books by the end of the year. That being said, I am going to keep my TBR’s reasonably short so that I leave myself plenty of room to mood read as I wish as that is generally how I manage to read the most.

So lets get started.

The first book on this list is actually the book I have already picked up; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling and all those other people! I thought a play script would be a great way to get back into reading. The hope is to fly through this and get the confidence to then jump into a full novel- we will see whether or not it works. I have heard so many mixed reviews about this, but personally I am actually finding I am enjoying it – okay, it isn’t as good as the original series but its a bit of fun and nice to be back in the world.29069989._SY475_

Next on the list is actually another script, just in case the first wasn’t enough- and that is Fantastic Beasts and where to find them, again by JK Rowling. I have seen the film for this, and now have the second film to watch, so I thought I would read the script for the first before jumping into the second. Plus its just another quick read to ease myself in. If really needed I then also have The Crimes of Grindelward script, so if still not ready for a book then I have this to pick up also.

Right, I really do need to catch up on some recent releases that publishers have had the kindness to share with me, so I am going to have at least two on each TBR for the rest of the year, with the hope to read more through mood reading as well.

So first is one of my most anticipated reads of the year, a September Titan release, The Swallows by Lisa Lutz. A crime thriller, which if its anything like The Passenger by Lisa Lutz then it will be full of psychological twists and turns. As for the plot I don’t know much, and that is how I like to keep it with my thrillers. That way I can just enjoy the surprise and go with the ride.47284539

And then another from Titan, but this time it is in the fantasy genre, The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young. This is a companion novel I believe to her previous book Sky in the Deep, but I have been reassured that I will be okay reading this one first- plan is if I love this one, then I will then most definitely pick up Sky in the Deep. Again I do not know overly much about this but I know that it is about a girl with powers who is then used by the native people. I am expecting it to be a fun exciting fantasy novel though, hopefully with loads of rich world building.42867937

Then finally I have a book I have left unread for far too long, The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston. I was kindly gifted this by Quirk Books, and am ever so sorry for not having got to it sooner. I know that this is a young adult comtempory based at a convention, but not much more than that. But I have only heard great things so I am definitely super excited to jump into this.

What are you planning to read this month? Do you have any recent releases that you need to catch up on?

Also I am looking to do a buddy read within the next few months, so please let me know if you are interested 🙂



GIVEAWAY: Strange Ink by Gary Kemble

Time for a bit of a throwback to a book review I wrote last year; but this time I have a very special addition. So sit back, read on, and get ready for some excitement!! 

Its been a while since I last sat and wrote a book review, but then is that really a surprise when you think that you have to read a book in order to review it? I will put my hands up and admit that in the past few months I have only read a tiny handful of books; its not something that I am proud of, but with the reading slump, and just generally more going on in life I have not been in the mood to sit and marathon through a book. Thankfully, it is now starting to change, and this book was one that definitely helped to get back on track with reading.img_1016

Described as a horror novel, this turned out to be a perfect Halloween read for me, spooky without scaring the living daylights out of me, and full of suspense and page gripping twists and turns.

When washed-up journalist Harry Hendrick wakes one morning with a hangover and a strange symbol tattooed on his neck, he shrugs it off as a bad night out. But soon more tattoos appear: grisly, violent images which come accompanied by horrific nightmares – so he begins to dig deeper. Harry’s search leads him to a sinister disappearance, torment from beyond the grave, and a web of corruption and violence tangled with his own past. One way or another, he has to right the wrongs. (From Goodreads)

Now I may be a wuss when it comes to horror films, I can only watch them during the day and with all the lights on, but when it comes to horror novels, I am generally quite a bit better. Strange Ink however had me running to turn the light on, and gripping my duvet that little bit closer to feel safe. It was and odd sense of fear of not knowing what was going to be coming around the next corner, especially in the flashback chapters.

This book does flick back in flashbacks in the form of dreams, which I have to admit I thought were my favourite chapters, but it was at times a bit hard to follow.

Connecting the two different storylines, with the past couple and the present couple was very cleverly done, showing how they were taking on the other personalities while still sticking to themselves.

Not going to lie I was a little disappointed that they just lost these connections once the mystery was resolved. I feel like the events that happened would of left more of a mark on them; but I cant explain this much more without this become spoilery.

I would definitely say that this is a great read for any horror or psychological thriller fans; I read it over Halloween and I would say it was the perfect read.

Have you read this book yet? What did you think? If not, you should go and get yourself a copy.

Strange Ink by Gary Kemble, Paperback, £7.99, OUT NOW!

But now for the excitement… In preparation for the sequel coming out 9th October, I have a copy of Strange Ink to give away! All you have to do is head over to my Twitter @Alexxmarie74 and like the pinned post, and leave me a comment down below so I know you have done it! I will reveal the winner on 29th of August, so go enter to be for a chance to win. UK ONLY 


The Spider Dance; An Extract

So after a bit of an unplanned blogging break (life got in the way), I am back with a very exciting extract from The Spider Dance by Nick Setchfield. This thrilling dark fantasy is certainly one to have on your watch list; I can not wait to pick it up! So sit dark with a cuppa, and let this extract draw you in.. Spider Dance cover

Winter took the bullet a second before he heard the shot.

It tore into his chest, shredding skin, skimming bone.

For a moment he felt nothing. It was as if his body was simply noting the bullet’s arrival.

And then it came, the numbing, consuming punch. Winter swayed, one arm wheeling for balance, the other pressed to his chest. His hand covered the wound, trying to plug it. He felt a warm insistence of blood pumping against his palm.

The world tilted, the stars and the city blurring. Winter buckled and fell, hitting the terrace.

He sensed Alessandra cradling him, lifting his head from the tarmac.

The man with the gun was almost upon them, his breathing still ragged from the kick he had taken to the throat. Winter fought to keep focus as the figure loomed. The outline of the man rippled and warped as Winter’s eyes watered. He glanced at Alessandra and then moved his gaze to his left ankle.

He slid the heel of his right shoe against the trouser leg, hitching up the fabric.

She saw the knife strapped to his calf. With a nod she eased it from the sheath and hid it in her hand.

And then she spun at the waist, slashing upwards, targeting the man’s ribs. She corkscrewed the mean little blade, twisting it into his side until the blue waistcoat purpled with blood.

Winter lay there, curling into himself as he watched the man stagger and crash. Now their bodies lay parallel on the ground.

Alessandra withdrew the knife and tossed it away. She crouched over the fallen state security agent, easing her thighs across his chest. The man was clearly in agony but she smoothed her hands over him as if savouring each spasm of pain, stealing it into herself. As her nails traced down to the knife wound her skin began to shimmer.

The Hungarian screamed and there was an unmistakable shudder of pleasure in the sound.

Winter saw the world darken, the stars receding in his peripheral vision, turning the sky into something black and crushing. One last image lingered as he lost consciousness.

Alessandra’s eyes, bright and blind as gold.

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The Spider Dance by Nick Setchfield, Paperback, £7.99, OUT NOW!