Sunday, 15 October 2017

Thank you for our Ecotricity recommendation reward!

We got a lovely surprise earlier this week - an email from our energy supplier, Ecotricity, with a £25 John Lewis voucher as a reward for introducing a new customer! How nice is that?

I'd like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to whoever signed up using my Ecotricity code recently. I hope you enjoy spending your voucher too. And maybe you were more adventurous in your shopping choices? We now each have a cosy winter's worth of socks!

I blogged last October about our Ecotricity sign up experience and am glad to say that we're still very happy with the company over a year later. I love that we are supporting their investment in renewable energy sources and their simple single tariff is easy to understand. Ecotricity promise to put as much green electricity into the National Grid as their customers take out and all their gas is Frack Free!

If you'd like to also experience a great sense of satisfaction for Doing The Right Thing, please take a few minutes to consider where your home energy comes from and how it is created. All the different suppliers and tariffs can be bewildering, but there's a good comparison table on greenelectricity.org which I found useful. Based on our experience, I recommend Ecotricity! If you also choose to switch to them, don't forget to use my sign-up code - rewards for us both are a John Lewis or Lush voucher!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - Halloween Lights

Zombie Glass Jar Lantern
by ReclaimedBritain
 
I've been enjoying scattering various Halloween-themed Etsy finds through my October Artisan Rainbow posts, but wanted an even more specific theme for this Top Five posts. There's so much great work on Etsy that actually trying to narrow down choices can be overwhelming! My eye was caught by some ingenious lights and lanterns and, as effective lighting can make or break a Halloween party atmosphere, I decided to showcase my favourites today.

I first spotted the Zombie Glass Jar Lantern pictured above. Created by Stephen Doe at ReclaimedBritain in Newport, the lantern is made by painting a 500ml glass jar. Setting a tea light inside will give anyone the goosebumps as the flame casts spooky shadows that flicker on your wall. Perfect to go with a night of spooky ghost story telling or a Halloween party! The lanterns are available in three colours and with graveyard zombie or witch silhouette motifs.

The Zombie Lantern is for sale at £12 plus shipping.

Frankenstein Light Box by SatisHouseFive
Famous horror stories are perfect Halloween fare and Mary Shelley's tale of Doctor Frankenstein's monster is one of the best. This Frankenstein Light Box features a miniature vintage French movie poster advertising the Boris Karloff film version. It is designed and created by Ruth Robinson at SatisHouseFive in Bridport. The box is printed around the sides with an orange polka dot pattern on a grey/ black background, and gothic black lace surrounds the poster itself. The light box is illuminated by way of an LED tea light in the back which emits a flickering light.

The Frankenstein Light Box is for sale at £9.50 plus shipping.

Mannequin Hand Lamp by LadybirdLaneDecor 
A jump in budget takes us to this fabulous Mannequin Hand Lamp made by LadybirdLaneDecor in Wakefield. I love this upcycling company's inventive creations! The lamp is made from a black 1960's dial telephone converted into a 12v lamp with new wiring fed up internally through the hand and into the earpiece of the receiver. The disembodied vintage mannequin hand is permanently mounted on the planed wooden rustic base and holds the receiver as though taking a call. A quirky decor talking point for Halloween and beyond!

The Mannequin Hand Lamp is for sale at £95 plus shipping.

Halloween VHS Lamp by NancysJars 
Returning to a movie theme, Hayley Summers at NancysJars in Wolverhampton had the great idea of upcycling old VHS tape cases into table lamps. She can make a lamp to suit any theme for which a film was shot so I had to choose the Halloween VHS Lamp for this post. The Shining or The Exorcist would have been just as appropriate too! Battery powered LEDs mean the videotape cases don't get hot and Hayley also offers the choice of a USB power connector.

The Halloween VHS Lamp is for sale from £14.99 plus shipping.

Tin Can Lanterns by AliceMaudeDesigns 

I've chosen traditional lantern upcycling for the last of my Top Five and I love this set of five Halloween Tin Can Lanterns created by AliceMaudeDesigns in Birmingham. Each tin has been punched with a suitably spooky illustration and light from candles placed inside illuminates the designs. Battery-powered candles are recommended, especially if the lanterns will be used indoors, because the tins will get very hot with a real flame burning inside.

The Halloween Tin Can Lanterns are for sale at £15 plus shipping.


I hope you love these wonderful creations as much as I do. All the links on this post are affiliate links so, should you choose to click through and make a purchase, I would receive a small commission.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

A #crafturday crochet sale!

Water Bottle Bags 
Just a quick post today!

I'm celebrating my first Etsy sale in ages - probably because I have been putting more effort into promoting my Artisan Rainbow and Literary Flits blogs. There's not enough hours in the day! Anyway, I'm delighted to have sent a Water Bottle Bag off to Glasgow this afternoon. The pink beaded one in this photo is no longer available!

We're planning to head off to our winter sun in a couple of weeks so if you have your eye on anything in my Etsy shop, now is the time to buy. I don't think I will take my craft box away again this year. There's not really enough room for it in the caravan.




Thursday, 5 October 2017

#WorldReads - Five Books From Japan

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month I highlight five books I have read from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post.

This month's country is Japan! Despite being famous for being a closed society for generations, Japanese literature has historically been deeply influenced by Chinese writing with many early Japanese works actually written in classical Chinese. Japanese authors were also influenced, by way of the spread of the Buddhist religion, by Indian cultures and ideas. My featured books include short story collections, novels and an important memoir.



Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

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There is nothing excessive or extraneous in Ogawa's writing. Every word is precise, restrained and elegant yet she manages to conjure up memorably haunting and gruesome images out of initially everyday situations. I love the interlinking of these eleven short stories which often hinges on a seemingly insignificant detail.

Read my original review on Literary Flits (from noon)



The Miner by Natsume Sōseki

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In my ignorance of classic Japanese literature I didn't realise before reading this book that Soseki is one of their lauded authors - although apparently The Miner, an experimental work, is often excluded from his collected writings. I think this is a shame. It is certainly an odd novel, but I enjoyed reading it especially as its unusual structure was unpredictable and the imagery is superb.

Read my original review on Stephanie Jane



The Stationmaster by Jiro Asada

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I loved every one of these stories. There is a strong sense of traditional and changing Japanese culture through them all, but I had no problem understanding the stories, their undercurrents and meanings. The characters' predicaments are universal with the plots revolving around ordinary people coping with aging, work pressures or fragmenting relationships.

Read my original review on Literary Flits



My Nuclear Nightmare: Leading Japan through the Fukushima Disaster to a Nuclear-Free Future by Naoto Kan


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In this memoir Naoto Kan smashes the myths of 'safe' and 'cheap' nuclear power. Neither concept is based in reality and his insights into how easily it can all go horrifically wrong were chilling to read, especially when I considered that this all happened in Japan - a prosperous nation with a strong technological background.

Read my original review on Literary Flits



The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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I am not sure how much this book would appeal to non-cat lovers and have even seen reviews complaining that the cat does not have enough of a starring role. The Guest Cat isn't really about the cat per se. For me it was more a thoughtful prose-poem about friendship and love, about finding a place that feels like home, and about living quietly with the passing of the seasons and finding joy in small events.

Read my original review on Literary Flits


That's it for October's WorldReads from Japan. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country and if you want more suggestions, click through to see all my Literary Flits reviews of Japanese-authored books! Please do Comment your own favourite Japanese books below and if you fancy buying any of the five I have suggested, clicking through the links from this blog to do so would mean I earn a small commission payment.

If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, I have already 'visited' America, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, ItalyNew Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
In November I will be highlighting five books by Norwegian authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!

Monday, 2 October 2017

BakerLou76 Gingerbread Men Baking Kit review

Did you see the fun baking kits I featured in September's TreatYourself special offers post? Created by Louise Ward of BakerLou76 in Wombourne, they are perfect for occasional home bakers who don't want to waste money buying greater ingredient quantities than they will need for one recipe. The kits would also make ideal gifts for adults or older children. Louise offers a wide range of recipes from Mediterranean Focaccia Bread to Rocky Road traybakes to a decadent Christmas Pudding and even Mulled Wine Jars. I was delighted when she contacted me to offer a Gingerbread Men kit to bake and review. I don't think I had made gingerbread for decades!

My kit arrived very quickly! It was neatly packed in a sturdy (and recyclable) card box wrapped in brown paper. On opening this I saw enticing bright pink tissue paper enclosing almost all the ingredients I would need for my biscuits - flour, sugar, spices, syrup and a cookie cutter. Louise had even thought to include a sheet of baking paper and a little extra flour to prevent the biscuits sticking as I rolled them out. The only ingredients that need to be added are ones that cannot easily be posted such as butter, eggs and milk. In the case of the Gingerbread Men, all I had to find was butter. This means, of course, that the kits can easily be veganised by substituting non-dairy spreads for butter / aquafaba for eggs / etc. if preferred.


My kit also included a laminated recipe card printed in a large enough font to be easily read across a mixing bowl. The instructions are clear and, I think, would make sense to even complete novice bakers. I set to work and soon had my biscuit dough mixed up and ready for rolling. No ingredients were missing and all their bags were clearly labelled so I would have had to try very hard to get this recipe wrong!

The cookie cutter is big so I ended up with eight full size gingerbread men and a half dozen smaller biscuits from the offcuts. The kitchen smelt gorgeous while they were baking - a real Christmassy aroma - and the Gingerbread Men are dangerously moreish once they cool down enough to be eaten. Dave and I happily munched through the batch in an afternoon and evening. For folks with more self-control the biscuits would last several days in an airtight container. It might even be worth spending time icing them!

I was very pleased with my BakerLou76 Gingerbread Men kit and am happy to recommend her baking kits. All the pressure of finding and weighing ingredients is taken away so I just had the fun of the actual baking. My only minor criticism would be that the ingredients are all in plastic bags rather than recyclable paper. The biscuits however are delicious - so much nicer for being homemade!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

September roundup and October preview

Stephanie Jane 
September has been a pretty exciting month all told! We had our tri-city holiday to Prague, Vienna and Budapest which I loved. I think Prague was probably my favourite of the three although all had memorable moments. The boat trip in Prague! The Spanish Riding School in Vienna! The dancing fountain in Budapest! You can read my Stephanie Jane blog posts about each city by clicking the links below:


My #TreatYourself post was the most popular of the month and I hope you took advantage of the five Special Offer codes I featured? We'll all be needing Cocktail Lip Balms when winter kicks in! I also featured a bakery business discount and was delighted to then be contacted by BakerLou with the offer of a baking kit to try out and review. I will be blogging my Gingerbread Men baking afternoon very soon! In the meantime how about baking this Vegan Slow Cooker Carrot Cake instead? (Hint: you'll need a tin of chickpeas!)


Literary Flits
I blogged my Month In Books reading wrapup yesterday, but didn't know what Literary Flits' most popular posts for the month would be at the time of writing. In September, my Top Three Book Posts were:

Strungballs by Mike Russell
When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman
The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield

If you haven't discovered these books for yourself yet, click through to take a look. All three have Giveaways, but only the When Darkness Falls one is still open (until October 4th).

I realised yesterday that the Goodreads / BookCrossing Decade Challenge doesn't seem to be happening this year. I've particularly enjoyed this challenge over the past two years so am just going to carry it on independently! If you'd like to join me, the idea is to read a book that was first published in each of the decades from 1900 to 2017 - 12 in all. The challenge started on the 1st of September and finished at the end of August so I will keep to those dates. I've already got two books read: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie for the 2010s and Havana Black by Leonardo Padura for the 1990s.


Artisan Rainbow 
Finally, my new handmade crafts blog, Artisan Rainbow, has done even better than I hoped in its first full month and I love searching out a different item to present each day. I managed to make some affiliate sales too which is especially encouraging. From Red on Mondays to Purple on Saturdays and with a Sunday Rainbow, I have already showcased items from birdboxes to umbrellas! In September my Top Three most popular posts were:

Owl Hot Water Bottle Cover by Moonglow Art
Polygon Window Demijohn Lamp by Humblesticks
Jaya Edge Wooden House by Little Tree Furniture

Artisan Rainbow participated in #JustACardDay too with a punnily clever Gincident card by Doodles Dot Dorset - perfect for all those Gin drinking friends!

I'm now looking forward to my 50th artisan post on Monday and to getting a tad Halloween-inspired throughout October!


In a change to our rest-of-the-year plans, it now looks as though we will heading overseas mid-October rather than waiting until the New Year as we had originally intended. I will be able to blog more about our travels which will be fun - and we'll get to discover how our Bailey caravan coped with being left in Spain all summer!

Roll on October!

Friday, 29 September 2017

A Month in Books - September 2017


It's always interesting to see which of my book posts will be most popular - other than those with Giveaways of course! - and which result in sales. The majority of Literary Flits links are affiliate links so when you click through I get a small commission for any purchases you all make. (Thank you!) September's reports had a surprise in store showing a sale of The Leopard which I'd reviewed way back in June. It's great to see older posts still generating attention! Don't forget you can browse titles of every Literary Flits book on the Author A-Z page or use the LinkWithin feature and label links at the end of each post.

Our fab holiday at the beginning of September cut into my reading time so I only read thirteen books this month! They include bizarre surrealism, poetry, crime mysteries and thrillers, and an excellent ancient-story-retelling. Keep scrolling past the Spotlights for my mini reviews ...


Guest reviews

Literary Flits hosted one Guest Review this month. If you have an indie author, small press or global literature book review that you would like to share please do get in touch.


Grace In Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon

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Read author Trix Wilkins' book review on Literary Flits


Spotlights

Do also get in touch to buy a Spotlight post for your book(s). Further details through This Link. Alternatively you could win a Spotlight by following me and retweeting my pinned tweet on Twitter! August's winner was Kathleen Harryman who promotes her York based thriller When Darkness Falls.


The Dark Mermaid by Christina L Barr + Giveaway

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Read the original post on Literary Flits



Pretty Perfect by Lana Sky + Giveaway

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Read the original post on Literary Flits



Journey's End: Death, Dying and the End of Life by Victoria Brewster and Julie Saeger Nierenberg + Giveaway

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Blackout by Lawrence Johnson Sr. + Giveaway

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When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman + Giveaway

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Read the original post on Literary Flits



Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien + Giveaway

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My reviews


Strungballs by Mike Russell + Giveaway

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I won a copy of Strungballs in a Facebook giveaway. I already knew of Mike Russell's work by way of a Rebecca Gransden's Nothing In Strange Guest Review so was delighted to try it myself. This novella is seriously weird! Entertaining definitely, and wonderfully surreal!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Everything Is Better With A Cape by C H Clepitt

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Kerry is back and still making event-inappropriate fashion choices! I enjoyed Everything Is Better With A Cape even more than its I Wore Heels To The Apocalypse predecessor and I think it is definitely the most humorous post-apocalyptic fiction I have read! There is little in the way of grim despair in Clepitt's invented world, instead we are faced with superheroic costume choices, gooey robots and a brilliantly sarcastic badger.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



35 Crocheted Bags by Emma Friedlander-Collins

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35 Crocheted Bags is a great resource for practical crochet patterns. It includes clear instructions for all kinds of bags from large totes and satchels to coin purses and glasses cases and I like that many are designed to be made with thick, chunky yarns. I can get from pattern to finished product pretty quickly!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Nomad's Premonition by Georges Benay + Giveaway

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I struggled through this book for a blog tour. I know other readers enjoyed it, but I think I can safely now say that financial thrillers aren't a genre for me.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

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My Book Of The Month! Shamsie's retelling of Sophocles' Antigone is brilliant and I loved reading this book. It's longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and I have my fingers crossed that it wins!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Service Disrupted: My Peace Corps Story by Tyler E. Lloyd

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Primarily Lloyd's recounting of his mental turmoil following a health scare while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. The memoir is an interesting insight into the reactions of a young man potentially afflicted with a terminal illness, especially the Schrodinger's Cat situation he endures whilst awaiting further tests and a definite prognosis.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu

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I had seen The Hairdresser Of Harare positively reviewed on other book blogs so jumped at the chance to purchase my own copy when the ebook was discounted recently on Amazon. It's a fairly light-hearted story - although with violent episodes towards the end - and I thought Huchu portrayed modern day Zimbabwe in a lively and entertaining way with great characters.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield

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Manterfield understands the teenage small-town claustrophobic experienced by Emmott Syddall in this thriller and I felt a lot of both sympathy and empathy for this character throughout the novel. The situation in which she ultimately finds herself is extreme, but always highly plausible - especially as I already knew the real village of Eyam had suffered plague quarantine before.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke

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I felt this novel never quite decided what it wanted to be. It misses out on being a strong historical work, but didn't quite convince me as a political crime thriller either. Strong characters and some vivid writing made it an enjoyable read, but I thought it should have been excellent instead of just good.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre

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I learned about A Journey Round My Room by reading Traveling In Place by Bernd Stiegler a couple of years ago. Stiegler was impressed with this autobiographical travel parody and I had looked forward to discovering it too. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



What's Wrong With The Street by Andy Carrington

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Andy Carrington returns to the fervent anger of his previous poetry collection, Apathy Will Kill Us All, for this newest publication. For me, the poems felt like segments of an epic work rather than individual pieces because of their overlapping subject matter and recurring themes. The sheer energy Carrington maintains throughout the book is exhausting!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Sense And Sensibility by Jane Austen

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I'm now two-thirds of the way through my Jane Austen Challenge to read all six of her novels during 2017. I have found that they seem to fall into two categories and sadly Sense And Sensibility joins the Dull as Ditchwater side for me.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Havana Black by Leonardo Padura

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I love when charity shop take-a-chance books turn out to be brilliant and that is certainly the case with Havana Black. This Cuban crime novel concentrates more on character relationships and portraying Havana than on the mystery itself and I thought it was much the stronger for this.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


That's it for this month and I know I have already got some great books lined up to read and review in October including macabrely titled Iranian novel, Through The Sad Woods Our Corpses Will Hang by Ava Farmehri, and an autobiography of Burundi runner Gilbert Tuhabonye. Keep up daily on Literary Flits or I will see you here at the end of the month for another round up.

Don't forget the Giveaways!