Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Virtual Coffee [19/04/2011]

Ok I’m up. Well kind of... It’s 2pm and I feel cranky, I don’t think I’ll feel human until I’ve had at least two cups of coffee today. It’s going to be a busy half day. I’ve had a decidedly non-restful, non-refreshing nights or I should say morning’s sleep, 6 –torturous– hours to be more precise. I think a Soy Latte or two is in order... Insomnia is a real drag.
Also tonsillitis is not helping. My normally huge as walnuts tonsils are currently even more swollen, I really should have them removed...
Anyway though, if we were meeting up for (a late) coffee this morning I’d tell you that I need to cancel my appointment with my nutritionist and reschedule for next Wednesday.
Oh also I shall be baking a storm of ‘Vegan Snickerdoodle Cookies’ as I'm expecting company, they have to be vegan as I’m fasting..  Have been fasting for 5 weeks now, I think I really like it, I’m 23 years old and yet this is the first year in my life I’ve fasted properly and for so long, always with doctor’s supervision of course due to health issues, as a child I wouldn’t fast for more than a week at most and it wasn’t a proper fasting either. I even get to have cookies, Vegan cookies but cookies all the same. J
In addition, finishing the Wish House by Celia Rees and getting in a couple of hours of writing and more job-hunting and filling application forms. *sigh* Being unemployed pretty much sucks, big time.
Right then enough babbling from me, time for that second cup of soy latte and I think I should feel sort of human and awake enough to get on with things.
I hope this Tuesday will be a great one for my fellow coffee drinkers as well as productive (well was really I did post this a tad late...). I’m off peeps. Hugs. J x

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Reviews, Stories and Articles by Maria Bitar are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cemeteries, goats and oddness...

Firstly let me start by saying that my brother is not insensitive and neither is he a cad. We just have a weird way of communicating both me and him. We tend to not show our emotions or verbalize things in a socially acceptable manner most of the time and we don’t do the whole letting people know how we feel about them, we just assume they know, but I digress.. Anyhow if the way the following conversation pans out insults anyone I apologise, but it’s meant to be light-hearted and to show how my weird family deals with everyday life events and situations, namely in the same crazy-assed way we deal with everything, we’re in a word “mad” and it’s not meant to insult or make anyone feel uncomfortable. J
I should also note that this is how *I* experienced this conversation and how it sounded to *MY* ears!! The other members of my family most probably didn’t experience it in the same way and they would probably disagree as I’m sure it sounded completely different to them as they don’t have the same hang ups with death as me!

Me: Hi. What you been up to all day then?

Bro: Hi. Me, my best friend and another guy dug up a grave today. We got paid for it.

Me: *momentarily shocked speechless* Uh come again? You dug a grave up as in a grave complete with coffin and dead person in it?

Bro: Yeah it was so bizarre..

Me: Mother did you cleanse the house with incense from church?

Mother: Why on earth?

Me: Your son has been digging up graves and bagging dead people’s skeletons.

Mother: I know. I don’t see the point of ‘cleansing’ the house though.

Me: Well I’m a touch superstitious, I’m OCD oh and did I mention necrophobic. I demand the priest comes and cleanses the house ASAP, oh and I’m putting bleach in the bathtub to kill off any pesky lingering germs...

Father: There we go again.. She’s a bit liberal with that bleach ain’t she? (father mumbles incoherently for a minute) Bleach is expensive, when is she getting a job so we can be rid of her again?

(I gave him the evil eye just then cause trust me there’s no one in this house that wants me to finally find a darned job more than me just so I can be rid of them. Permanently.)

Bro: *laughs nervously* you know it wasn’t nothing much. Just a disintegrated coffin, a suit and tie that have not degraded yet and the skeleton in the suit. Only...

Me: What? (My gag reflex started to kick in at that point and I turned just a little bit green at that point) There’s more? What do you mean “only...”?

Bro: Well the dead man, well technically dead man’s skeleton was kind of stuck like he was lodged in the earth pretty firmly there, had to hold the shoulders and shake him quite a bit to get him unstuck; and at first I was a little sick to my stomach and a bit creeped out when we started but . . . well I never thought I was capable of doing this kind of thing. Ever. Like didn’t think I had the stomach nor the maturity to deal with death and be quite so up close and personal with it.. (frankly speaking neither did we.)

(I was pretty surprised at this part of the story as my brother admitted to apologising to the –ahem- deceased before he shook him- and after he placed him in the bag-, at which point his best friend exclaimed ‘oi you’ve probably made him go dizzy there’ –we call my bro’s best mate slow motion and there’s a good reason for it too but anyway I digress yet again; and then it was time to bag the, well, remains..
So my brother proceeded to gently pick up the man from the ground and the bones fell out the suit, he admitted to momentarily blanking out in mild shock there but he recovered quickly, and he gently folded the suit and placed it in the black bin bag with the rest of the remains and the, um, skull on top, so he can be placed on top of the other deceased family member that was being buried in that grave the next day.
Mother and father actually *smiled* at their offspring’s gumption and asked him how much he got paid.)

Bro: Well I think everything is just an idea really, it struck me though, how in however many years from now, that that’s going to be us down there, buried, rotting and disintegrating, left with just bones, it was a surreal experience and a touch creepy at first but now I’m ok I guess...

Me: Uh yeah speak for yourselves I insist that I be cremated (when that far far –well I hope that is- time arrives) rules of the Christian Orthodox religion be damned! I’ve watched CSI, and earth worms and disintegration do not suit me, now fire on the other hand totally me check my zodiac too, Capricorn, our element is earth and earth totally goes with fire; actually seeing as we’re on the subject I don’t want to die at all, so there! Vampires anyone?!

* When I’m nervous by the way I babble and get all jittery and start to hyperventilate. My family is now officially too weird, I don’t see how I am related to these people at all, unfortunately the DNA test and all the relevant blood work says differently and now it would seem the way we all deal with situations affirms it too... Science sucks! hehe

On a less morbid note, we also played host to a black male baby goat in a green vest top and a bib briefly that evening. He didn’t have a name so I got permission and named him Pascal, his temporary owner is one of my brother’s friends, Andreas. He’s a lovely boy the baby goat too oh and it’s going to a birthday party hence the attire. Also the goat liked me.

My life is so so strange; it’s a certified madhouse in here! *chuckle*

(Please note that the above slightly odd conversation & events took place on Friday the 15th.)

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Reviews, Stories and Articles by Maria Bitar are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Soulless – Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Published: October, 2009
Format: Paperback, 373 pages
Publisher: Orbit Publishing
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy/Adult
Interactive Website: Alexia’s London

Summary – Book Cover
Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations.
First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently for Alexia accidentally kills the vampireand then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia is responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?”

Soulless is the first book in the Alexia Tarabotti Series. Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster, she’s also soulless and half-Italian; that does not bode well for her what with living in Victorian London and all . . . it’s definitely not good for her. Actually, she’s the bane of her mother’s existence and Lord Maccons’ too.
Miss Tarabotti is really rather disagreeable and a touch too progressive for her time. She seems to be of a suspicious nature, is not given to smiling, not frivolous, talks a mile a minute, is mostly sarcastic and is rather fond of gesticulating any opportunity she gets. Basically my kind of girl, if Mademoiselle Alexia was real (she’s real enough in my head but that’s an entirely different issue altogether...) we’d totally be best friends.
Also for a lady of the 1800’s where women were supposed to look delicate and not eat a lot she sure liked to eat, a lot and drink copious amounts of tea too. As in she was not the bunny-like-lettuce-munching type either, more like hearty meals and scones and treacle tarts etc.
After reading Soulless I have decided I just need to have a black lacy frilly parasol with brass hardware and a silver tip filled with buckshot, Alexia’s favourite accessory, features prominently throughout the whole book and is my new obsession to boot.
Lord Conall Maccon the other ‘main’ character is just too funny, why I do believe dear Miss Tarabotti shall cause him to really blow his gasket one of these days. Whenever those two (Alexia & Conall) happen to be in the same room you immediately know that one a disaster has most definitely occurred and two laughter is bound to ensue, the giggling incessantly kind and lots of it.
Lastly, I should note that after Alexia I am particularly taken with Professor Lyall (he’s a supporting character in the cast so to speak but features quite prominently in the book also; he’s Lord Maccons’ beta), he is a bit of a mystery and at the same time really straightforward.
Soulless is a cross between a Richelle Mead book and a Jane Austen novel. If you enjoy the classics, and have enjoyed reading Death’s Mistress and Touch the Dark by Karen Chance as well as Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead then you will enjoy this, they’re not the same but they do share some common characteristics such as the paranormal elements (i.e. vampires and werewolves) and the period aspect (in Karen Chance’s novels the heroine and her menagerie ‘hop’ back and forth though the present and the past in different timelines/periods).
All in all a cracking good read. A real pick me up. J

Author Bio
Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life for the historic cities of Europe and inadvertently acquired an education. She now resides in the Colonies with a harem of Armenian lovers, surrounded by fantastic shoes and tea imported from London. She has several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger is fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit. The Parasol Protectorate books are: Soulless (October 2009), Changeless (March 2010), Blameless (September 2010), Heartless (July 2011), and Timeless (2012). Soulless won the ALA's Alex Award. Her new series are set in the same universe as the Alexia Tarabotti Novels aka The Parasol Protectorate Series and is called the Finishing School series, this –unlike the Alexia T Series which is for adults– is for young adults.
(Author information here is a mish-mash of the bio found on the book cover and the one on the author’s website. I pretty much haven’t changed it –as I think it is brilliantly witty and funny as is– just mildly rephrased a couple things in order to fuse the two without repeating any info.)

Post to follow - my brother’s escapades from Friday the 15th after being back in the country for 8 brief days only so far. A little warning it involves black humour; weirdness and a little morbid-ness, well to me that is, don’t know how others will take it.

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Reviews, Stories and Articles by Maria Bitar are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Retail Therapy: Brain Medicine for a troubled Writer

Tomorrow is going to be a writing day.

I decided I am going to go to the huge nearby mall which is fairly new and is called -no surprises there as there is a general lack of imagination all round over here but I digress . . . it’s called, wait for it.. “My Mall”.
Despite the unimaginative name though it’s quite big, has a nice atmosphere, is usually packed on a Saturday and affords one complete anonymity in this tiny country where practically everyone knows everyone..
So it is the perfect environment for people-watching, therefore it is the perfect environment for me to go and do my writing and conduct my little exercise of watching others, their behaviour and the way they’re dressed so I can write it down and perhaps manage to finally get rid of my writer’s block or my temporary mental silence if you like. I predict it is going to be rather fun.
Also tomorrow the review for Soulless..

PS: Props to James Parry, a good friend of mine, for giving me the idea for the post title! J

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Reviews, Stories and Articles by Maria Bitar are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

By Midnight – Mia James

By Midnight by Mia James

Published: July 07, 2010
Format: Hardback, 437 pages
Genre: Paranormal YA / Fiction
Interactive Website: Ravenwood Mysteries

Blurb – Back of Book
“Highgate. Murder. Vampires. Surviving School has never been so tough.”

Summary - Book Jacket
“April Dunne is not impressed.
She’s had to move from Edinburgh to Highgate, London, with her parents. She’s left her friends – and her entire life – behind. She has to start at a new school and, worst of all, now she’s stuck in a creepy old dump of a house which doesn’t even have proper mobile phone reception.
Ravenwood is a prestigious academy for gifted (financially or academically) students – and the only school where her parents could find her a place in the middle of term, in the middle of London, on incredibly short notice. So she’s stuck with the super-rich, and the super-smart . . . and trying to fit in, when the rest of the students seem to be more glamorous, smarter, or more talented than she is, is more than tough. It’s intimidating and isolating, even when she finds a friend in the conspiracy-theorist Caro Jackson – and perhaps finds something more than friendship in the gorgeous, mysterious Gabriel Swift.
But there’s more going on at Ravenwood than meets the eye. Practical jokes on new students are normal, but when Gabriel saves her from . . . something . . . in Highgate Cemetery, and then she discovers that a murder took place just yards away from where she had been standing, April has to wonder if something more sinister is going on.
. . . and whether or not she’s going to live through it . . .”

This is the first book in the Ravenwood Series and the debut novel of Mia James. First thing to note is that Mia James is actually a husband/wife writing team consisting of Tasmina Perry –a best-selling author of Kiss Heaven Goodbye, Original Sin, Guilty Pleasures, Gold Diggers and Daddy’s Girls– and John Perry –an award-winning journalist from Great Britain.
Secondly, this is not your run-of-the-mill vampire story; it’s original, fresh and above all extremely engaging. Not a single dull moment, except perhaps April’s childish selfish behaviour at times, which is not so much dull I should say but more irritating. For a 16-year-old she sure is prone to melodrama, overly dramatic tantrums and selfishness. Note though that this happens only once or twice, briefly and should not put you off Miss Dunne on the whole as she is a very well-rounded, well-developed character that’s lovable and truly charming. After all it’s only human and normal teenage behaviour to have such moments and as they are not the rule throughout the book they’re the rare exception, so not at all a detracting factor.
April Dunne is a regular teenager with all the angst, worries and love issues you’d expect from a real teenager; a charismatic young woman all-in-all with just the right amount of inexperience that again is to be expected from a 16-year-old.
The plot makes absolute sense and I love the fact that it’s unpredictable with surprising twists and turns, keeps it interesting and suspenseful, all winning traits for a book for me and definitely a must. The only downside one could say is that the start is a touch on the slow side; however it is not dull au contraire. This was one of those times that a slow start to a book did not make me put it down and never pick it up again..
To me personally there really weren’t any weaknesses in By Midnight. It was pretty much near perfect which makes me really look forward to the second instalment to the series. In that respect September 2011 can’t come fast enough!
If you liked The Dark Divine by Bree Despain, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead or Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz then this is the book for you.

Author Bio
Mia James is the pseudonym used by the husband/wife writing team made up by Tasmina Perry – a best-selling author and John Perry – an award-winning Journalist. By Midnight is their debut novel. They live in Surrey, UK with their four-year-old son Finlay. Tasmina Perry has written for women’s magazines including Marie-Claire, Elle, Glamour and she was the deputy editor of InStyle, winning the prestigious award of Journalist of the Year and becoming one of the youngest editors in the country. Each one of her novels has made the Sunday Times top ten lists and is published in 16 countries. John Perry started his career as a musician which he then went on to drop to become a rock writer reporting on the Britpop wars for the NME, before joining Loaded periodical where he met his wife Tasmina. John is a modern house husband and stay at home dad nowadays.
(Author information is a combination of bio found on the book jacket and website.)

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Reviews, Stories and Articles by Maria Bitar are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, 1 April 2011

It's awfully quiet in here..

So first post ever . . . right then.. It's awfully quiet in here and I've no idea whatsoever on what I should put so I'm just going to rough it or whatever they call it and pray that I don't embarrass myself. Man oh man but these first post things can be awfully awkward, actually any firsts are awkward, and embarrassing and difficult so I'm hoping I'll be excused just this once for any blunders/faux pas committed... Um okay have I done it, is it like enough for a first post?.. I should really stop here and put me out of my misery and move on to post number two tomorrow which will be a book review and much kinder to my equilibrium, so good stuff... Okay I'm officially stopping all my babbling now. heh :)

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Reviews, Stories and Articles by Maria Bitar are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.