A book review of The Spy Who Kissed Me by Pauline Baird Jones

Image result for the spy who kissed me

Everything was pointing to this book being rubbish.  The cover art is pretty crap.  It doesn’t scream ‘sophisticated writing that’s going to whisk you away into a story that feels so real you’ll…’  I don’t even know how to end that sentence.

Then the book starts with author’s notes informing us that this is the author’s first ever completed novel, and she had real issues getting it published.  Oh joy.  I’m definitely in for a thrill here.

If this was a movie, it’d be an action comedy.  Or a comedy action.  It had a lot of action and a lot of comedy.  There were shots fired, car chases, stabbings, people getting run over, explosions, and lots of kissing.  But it was interwoven with a sense of humour that kept me smiling as I turned the pages.  It was the kind of humour that made you chuckle to yourself or snigger quietly as you read on the train, leaving people wonder what you’re reading or watching.

The story is told in first person by Isabel ‘Stan’ Stanley.  She is hilariously self-deprecating.  It’s a weird kind of humour too, because the other characters keep commenting on it, which makes sense when you’re reading, but looking back makes you realise that the author was kind of laughing at her own jokes.  Never mind, I was laughing at her jokes too, so all good.

Despite all the action, despite the deaths, despite the bad guys doing bad things, it was a light hearted romp of a read, and I really enjoyed it.  I’d recommend it as a perfect holiday read, something to read at the beach, or if you’ve had too much of reading dark, intense, brooding kinds of books.

I know humour is individual and you might not enjoy it the same as I did, but definitely give it a go.  I was pleased I did.  I gave it four stars.

Book review of Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair


Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair is a science fiction romance, set some time in the future.  My first impression was that it reminded me of Star Trek, and I initially wondered if it was fan fiction.

There’s somewhat of an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope, with Sass and Branden on the outs at the beginning.  There is a lot of hidden history though, that the author slowly reveals to us.  And to Sass.  I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of Sass having a ‘sneak peek’ into Branden’s personal feelings, but she does later share with him that she has this knowledge.  It’s interesting to wonder how the story would have changed if Sass hadn’t had that insight though.  Would she have found it harder to look beyond Branden’s closed-off façade?

Branden is a cyborg (born human but upgraded with computer technology to be super smart, fast, strong, etc).  Sass is human.  This difference plays into the tension between them, especially on Branden’s part as he can’t understand why any human would find a ‘machine’ attractive.

Most of the story takes place on the spaceship where Branden is the Admiral and Sass is the Captain.  I’m not sure why you’d have an Admiral and a Captain on the same ship (seems like overkill to me) but what do I know?  Despite my first paragraph, I’m not a Trekkie.  Later though, the story moves to a small ship, a planet and back to the small ship.  This forces Branden and Sass to interact more, as they learn to depend on each other for survival.  I felt that this was where they both truly came into their own.  Branden risks his life to save the others, and this is one of the clearest moments up to then when we (and the other characters) see that he is not an emotionless machine.  We are given insight prior to that, but this is where he lets his mask fall and shows us.

There is a secondary romance that also plays out alongside the main one.  I enjoyed this.

There was only one thing that really bugged me, and it was minor.  There are creatures called fidgets, which appear to all intents and purposes to be the equivalent of domestic cats (although they have abilities domestic cats don’t have, as you’d expect in science fiction).  The author takes this comparison and runs with it.

‘Me? Nervous as a long-tailed fidget in a room full of rocking chairs.’

Seriously?  Does changing it from a cat to a fidget actually make that saying work in a science fiction world of spaceships?  People barely use rocking chairs in 2018 let alone many years into the future.  And if you’re going to invent new worlds, new species, etc., invent new sayings!  Don’t just take old sayings and repurpose them!

‘Fuck you and the equinnard you rode in on,’ she told it.’

Ugh. ‘Equinnards’ seem utterly irrelevant in a world where people could live their entire lives without setting foot on a planet surface.  But it was a minor detail and certainly not enough to stop me from re-reading or recommending the book.

I did think the rest of the story was well written.  It was very easy to read, it flowed well, it had a nice balance of action and rest, and the aliens and alien-technology fitted into the story well without making the reader go ‘huh?’.

All in all, I enjoyed the book.  I gave it four stars.

It’s all about perseverance

My daughter did the ‘Great Te Atatu Mud Run’ on Sunday morning.  She signed up to do the long run (1km), although this was supposed to be for people aged 16+ and she’s only 12, as she was doing it with two family friends of ours.

We watched some people do shorter runs, and it was amusing to watch them slog through the knee-deep mud.  On the smaller people, it was occasionally thigh or waist high mud!

One of the ladies that was doing the run with my daughter was running late, so the three of them ending up starting the long run quite a while after everyone else.  By that stage we had already seen some people give up and many people struggling to make it back to dry land, and we were a bit nervous about how she would cope.  She was easily the youngest participant for this course.

The obligatory ‘before’ photo when they were still clean!

The 1km course ended up taking them a full hour to complete.  They were covered in mud from head to toe, literally, with mud in their hair and everything.  They were absolutely knackered, but triumphant, and grinning from ear to ear.

Thankfully there were some handy fireman bearing hoses to clean them off before they got in the car to come home.  The car still got pretty grimy though.


At home, she took a long, hot shower and then spent the afternoon drawing.  She’s at the stage of self-taught drawing where she’s finding drawings she likes online and copying them, freehand.  We watched our son go through that too.  They start with tracing, then move on to copying, then start drawing things from their own imagination and/or things that they see in real life.

They don’t get the drawing talent from my husband or me specifically, but we have plenty of artists in the family.  My mother and sister are both skilled artists, and my husband’s grandparents on his mother’s side were too.  Having watched my son learn to draw, I know that it is 90% practice and 10% talent, but you need that drive, that love of drawing to keep you practicing until you start to get good.  It’s so wonderful to see my daughter following in his footsteps.  I love seeing the art they create.

How impressive is that for a 12 year old drawing freehand?!

Oh, and I did spend Saturday with my mum working on the photo book project for my sister, so I’m on track there.  And I will try to get some more book reviews done soon too.  I have read a few books that I need to review.

What have you been up to?


‘A goal without a plan is just a wish.’

I was talking to a colleague of mine today, about my projects.  She was intrigued by the idea that I had multiple projects on the go, and asked me what they all were.  I told her that my projects were:

  • A photo book for my sister (wedding present)
  • Transferring my blogs from 2001 – 2018 into printed books, embellished with the memorabilia I’ve collected from those years
  • The family recipe book
  • Family history books
  • Handwriting all my poems into journals

She asked me what my plans were for achieving these ‘goals’.  I was stumped.  I don’t have plans, I just have projects!  *Laugh*  I started my family recipe book in 2010.  That was 8 years ago!!  *Shock*

I told her that I needed to get the photo book for my sister done by June, because it was a wedding present.  I was then going to work on the blog books because I had all these boxes of memorabilia stashed around my bedroom that I needed to get rid of.  But as I spoke to my colleague, I mused that the blog books were for me (and eventually my children), but the family recipe book and the family history books are intended for my older relatives.  I gave an abbreviated copy of the recipe book (what I’d done to that point) to my great-uncle (who is in his 90s and in ill health) and to my husband’s grandfather a year or so before he passed away.  The remaining relatives, other than my grandmother who is in her 90s and has contributed to the book, are my parents and parents-in-law’s generation.  This means they’re in their 60s.  If it’s taken me eight years to do approximately a quarter of the book, these people will be in their 90s by the time I finish!!  *FacePalm*

So clearly I need to prioritise again, and on top of that, make plans for progressing these projects.  It’s not enough to just do some whenever I feel like it.  So I’m going to do some work every weekend on my sister’s photo book until that’s done, then sit down and come up with a good plan for the family recipe book.  That at least is a finite project.  Then I need to sit down and work on the family history books (which could be infinite if I don’t set boundaries on them).  I really wanted to get DNA tests done for both my parents before finishing the family history books, but that will be finance-dependent.

And now seems like a good idea to provide an update on the to do lists that I shared in For the love of lists…, as requested by Marie at Create Space.

Things I have achieved since I posted a month ago:
*Boxcheck* Write a poem in January
*Boxcheck* Write a poem in February
*Boxcheck* Read a book set in a country I’d like to visit, but never have
*Boxcheck* Read a book published in 2017
*Boxcheck* Read a book by my favourite author
*Boxcheck* Read a book with a one word title
*Boxcheck* Read a book set in New Zealand
*Boxcheck* Read a book set in the future
*Boxcheck* Read a book with horror elements
*Boxcheck* Read a book with an element in the title (earth, air, fire, water)
*Boxcheck* Read a book published in 2018
*Boxcheck* Write a book review in February
*Boxcheck* Write a blog post in the week commencing 22nd January
*Boxcheck* Write a blog post in the week commencing 29th January
*Boxcheck* Write a blog post in the week commencing 5th February
*Boxcheck* Write a blog post in the week commencing 12th February
*Boxcheck* Write a blog post in the week commencing 19th February
*Boxcheck* Post the Versatile Blogger Award
*Boxcheck* Approach at least one author/blogger/publisher regarding an interview in January
*Boxcheck* Read and comment on other blogs in the week commencing 22nd January
*Boxcheck* Read and comment on other blogs in the week commencing 29th January
*Boxcheck* Read and comment on other blogs in the week commencing 5th February
*Boxcheck* Read and comment on other blogs in the week commencing 12th February
*Boxcheck* Get 100 followers on this blog
*Boxcheck* Do a photography daytrip with Mum
*Boxcheck* Share a new photo on Instagram
*Boxcheck* Share a new photo on Facebook
*Boxcheck* Make soap
*Boxcheck* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge for January 18th
*Boxcheck* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge for January 23rd
*Boxcheck* Set up the 2018 Nomination Form for Quill Awards by end of January
*Boxcheck* Update The Snail Mail Forum in February
*Boxcheck* Send out Snail Mail rewards at the beginning of February
*Boxcheck* Write an editorial for at least one official Writing.com site newsletter

Things I didn’t achieve:
*Box* Save $1,000 in January
*Box* Write a short story in January
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 13th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 14th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 15th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 16th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 17th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 20th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 21st
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 22nd
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 24th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 25th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 26th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 27th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 28th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 29th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 30th
*Box* Write a blog entry for the 30-Day Blogging Challenge on January 31st
*Box* Update Matters of the Heart Forum in January
*Box* Update The Snail Mail Forum in January
*Box* Send out Snail Mail rewards at the beginning of January

Hmm, I feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit, and still managed to miss out on a few things I should have done!  A mixed result.  No matter.  Honestly, most days I’ve come home from work and just wanted to curl up in bed and read a book (hence why I’ve managed to complete a few of my reading tasks!).  Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.  I was motivated to go out for not one but two photography day trips with my mum though, which was awesome.  And I’ve been keeping up with my blogging, which I’m really pleased about, even if I did miss some of the Writing.com prompts I had intended to do.

Overall, I’m happy enough with that.  And it’s good to do a review now while I still have some of February left, and I can tick off a few things.  I’ve written a poem but not a short story, and I saw two contests on Writing.com that I might be able to knock off with a single short story, so that’s a goal for this weekend.  Along with working on my sister’s photo book.  *Rolleyes*

What have you been up to?  Have you ticked off any of the things on your to do list?

Soap making

When we got together in January for our failed attempt at making cheddar cheese, my mother and mother-in-law decided they wanted to have a creative day once a month.  We plotted out some ideas.  We could make soaps, candles, chocolates, waxed fabric food wraps, and other things.  We decided to do the chocolates in March, because that would coincide nicely with Easter (no religious connection, just a chocolate connection!).  So we planned to do soap in February and candles in April.

On Saturday, my daughter and I went to my mother-in-law’s house, and we met up with my mum and my sister there.  We made soaps.  It was much easier than I had expected (although admittedly we were using melt and pour kits) and much more fun.  I think I might buy another kit and make more for gifts.  I really enjoyed it.

My daughter has a great write up of the day with photos of the soaps we made, on her blog.

Click here to read the soap making post at Creating With Caitlin

Falcon Game Reviews

I’m participating in a fun blogging activity started by Ian at Adventure Rules. He assigned us all ‘secret Valentine’s, and we get to explore a new blog and share it with you, our readers. Great fun! I love exploring new blogs, and this was a good way to get out of my comfort zone.

Falcon Game Reviews sounds pretty self-explanatory, right?  It’s way more than that though, all with an overarching gaming theme.  A lot of my followers are in to creative writing, and yep, there’s some of that too!  It’s probably technically fan-fiction (if you gotta throw a label on it, which I think I just did) as Shelby writes short stories from the perspective of characters from The Long Dark, his favourite game.

I found even the intro pages quite interesting, and I wonder if that’s because I’m the wife of a gamer. *Bigsmile*

I can’t possibly do justice to Shelby’s blog, as I’m not a gamer, and the only two computer games I’ve ever really enjoyed are not on his (very impressive) list of games, but Shelby writes in a way that you can easily understand his posts without an in-depth gaming knowledge, so that’s awesome.

That’d be like watching a movie that contained 12 hours of static spread throughout. Sure, the $10 I spent on the ticket and the $15 small popcorn would be worth the price if the movie was good, but anyone would feel ripped off if the situation were otherwise. The fact is, people play games to be entertained. Who wants to play a game that’s a chore to get through?

His posts incorporate a nice level of humour that makes them fun to read.

Games are expensive, sometimes. Most mainstream games these days seen to hover about the $50-$60 (US) range, with indie titles hanging out around $20-$30 (US). That may be pocket change to some folks, but Jennifer and I aren’t made of money. If that were the case, I’d be laundering cash every time I took a shower.

Wait, that’s not what that idiom means.

I just realised I’m doing a review of a review site.   *Facepalm*  Cue an Alanis Morissette song!

Ultimately, his posts are informative.  If you are interested in gaming, you’ll find his posts full of educated opinion and true gaming passion.  He does his best to avoid spoilers too, bonus!

I recommend reading You don’t need to enjoy everything if only for the line ‘I would rather be an uncultured swine than a pretentious douchebag.’ Ha ha!

If you want an easy intro into some of Shelby’s likes and dislikes, and his opinions, then The Most Awards 2017 is a good starting point.

There are serious game reviews aplenty, but those aren’t really my thing. I mean, they’re the focus of the blog obviously, but not really my thing. I’ve only ever played two computer games semi-seriously, and neither of them are on Shelby’s list (if you’re curious, those two games are A.D.O.M (Ancient Domains of Mystery) and Civilization).

Do check out Shelby’s creative writing though. One of his most recent stories starts with Sam’s survivor story part 1. His way of writing reminds of the narrator you get in some movies. Not the Morgan Freeman type narrators, but… Hmm, I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s easy to read though, and the imagery is vivid. I know the stories are fan-fiction about the game characters, but they read more like… well, characters in a novel. They feel like they have depth, when I guess I don’t perceive game characters to have depth. That might be ignorance on my part, or it might be skilled writing on Shelby’s part. Take the compliment and run, Shelby! *Laugh*

Anyway, if you’re interested in gaming, or if you want to read some gritty fan-fiction, go and check out Falcon Game Reviews.  Now, I’m off to tell my husband about this great gaming review site I found for him.  *Smirk*

I’m not okay

Although I wrote this poem in January, I think I’m about done revising it. For a tiny poem, it’s been through 11 drafts, and I think I’ve given up. It’s as good as it’s going to get. Feel free to make suggestions though!


My shoulder muscles tense,
instinctive reaction to a

I’m not okay.

My fight or flight response
a bone-deep warning to
avoid sudden movements.