Book Review – “The Tower”, by Simon Toyne

I never make New Year Resolutions, as I never keep them.  However, in a previous blog post, I stated that I have made two for 2018, and I was determined to keep them.  The first was to read more.  Books, that is.  I would aim to read at least one book per month.  Some times that’s easier said than done – so should I aim for “12 books in 2018” instead?  No.  That would just put more pressure on me if I don’t finish a book by the end of the month.

Anyway, I can confirm that today (31 January), I have just finished my first book of the year.

The Tower, by Simon Toyne.  First published 2013.  498 pages.  ISBN 978 0 00 739208 7.


When I bought this book, I didn’t know that this was actually the third of a trilogy (I will point out here that this makes no difference to the reading.  I have not read the previous two books, nor do I intend to…  This book was perfectly readable on its’ own).  Whenever I buy a book, it’s the cover design that grabs my attention first.  If I am drawn to the cover, I will read the description on the back.


After centuries of secrecy, the forbidden Citadel in the historic Turkish city of Ruin opens its gates.  A deadly disease has ravaged everything within.  Charity worker Gabriel Mann is dying – but may also hold the only cure.

Without him, ex-journalist Liv Adamsen stands alone against those who want her silenced.  However, Liv soon has far bigger concerns than just her own life…

In America, FBI agent Joe Shepherd searches for NASA’s missing head scientist.  His investigation unearths a global conspiracy that is preparing for an event beyond all reckoning.

But nobody is ready for what is coming.  And when it does – it will change everything.

I’m a fussy reader, and the genres I choose are rather eclectic.  Ha ha, a bit like this blog really.  I enjoy reading chick lit; where the main character(s) are women, and is a bit of a romantic comedy.  On the other hand, I have really enjoyed reading conspiracy / thrillers; so the blurb on this book called to me.

I have to admit that it was a little slow in starting off.  It seemed all over the place, as the story focused on different “main” characters, who were in different parts of the world.  I couldn’t get my head around it, but perseverance paid off, as by about chapter 10, I was able to distinguish whose story line I was “playing out”.  10 chapters in may sound like a lot, but the chapters in this book are well written, and are about 3-5 pages long.

I found a lot of the characters likeable.  I was able to somewhat “see” what they were describing, and I did feel a lot of empathy for them.

There were a couple of chapters towards the end of the book that I think happened too fast…  I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but I think three characters story lines were ended rather abruptly.  There was no real build-up to it – it just sort of happened; and to me, there could have been more to it.

The whole book sort of ended quickly too.  All the characters, and the plot was closed, so it didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions, but it really felt like the author had just given up.  “I’m bored, let’s wrap this up”, type of thing.  Which was a shame – especially considering this was the final book in the trilogy.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who does like to read conspiracy novels.

My score:


‘Empress Orchid’ by Anchee Min – Review

“Orchid kowtowed to the Grand Empress and the emperor. She knew she was not allowed to make eye contact, but she couldn’t help herself.”

I like to read. Books fascinate me. I don’t know whether it’s because I have such a great imagination or whether I can relate to the descriptions of certain things throughout the novel.

Empress Orchid was a great read. Anchee Min described the indescribable.

Brief outline
Orchid is a 16 year old girl. Her father had just died, and she, her brother, sister and mother are on their way with the coffin to the grand city to give her father the burial he deserves. Something happens along the way which makes Orchid think that her life could be more than that of a “taipeng” (commoner).

Whilst staying with her uncle, she sees a poster announcing that the Emperor, Hsieng-feng, is now ready to select his wives and concubines. Orchid goes along to the selection.

Life is not good for Orchid when she enters the Forbidden City. She is not of royal blood, and the other women and girls know it.

Ok, so what would you expect to happen if there were over 5000 women fighting each other for the Emperors attention? Slanging matches? Fisty-cuffs? Yes, you would expect that, but that never happens. Orchid and the other Empresses try to ruin each other’s lives using dark and sly techniques. Some are successful, with some girls being honoured with the “white sash”, meaning they have to hang themselves. Others, meanwhile, are planning and plotting to be in total control.

Things get even worse when the Emperor dies.

Orchid is a fighter, and she never gives up. She is walked all over, and disrespected, but she always holds her head up high…

A partially-erotic, bitchiness, political love story that will make you wanting more. The book is fiction, but many facts are included.

Total Bookworm

My previous post was about spinning ideas on writing my own book.  The problem that I am struggling with at the moment, is what genre I should go with.  Should I go back in time, to write a book similar to what I started, in the ‘Point Horror’ genre, or should I write a book in the thriller / mystery style..?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I have a teeny tiny obsession with Ancient Egypt, so maybe I could write something based on my knowledge of the mystical surroundings of the great Pharoah’s of the promised lands..?

Anyway, whilst I’m contemplating over the genre of my ‘story’, I have had another idea on what I can do for my book.

I am an avid crafter.  I create my own jewellery and accessories.  I love to create things.  So, what a better way to show off my creative side that to produce a craft book, filled with projects that you can make at home?

Yes.  I like that idea very much.

Watch this space…

Living in an imaginative world

I love to read.  When I was in my early teens, I read the ‘Point Horror’ collection.  These were a series of books that we composed with amazing skills…  The authors knew how to reach out to the reader, to put them in the scenario in which they were reading about.

At the same time, the ‘Goosebumps’ books were out…  I tried to read those, but I found them too childish for my ‘older-than-most’ mind.  The Point Horror collection really gripped me.

Can anyone remember the old Windows programme, Word Perfect 2.0?  We’re going back a few years there, huh?

Well, when I was about 14, or 15, I started to write a story using Word Perfect 2.0.  I was writing in a way similar to the Point Horror authors.  After a week or so, I realised that my story was no longer a short one, as I had intended, I decided to just keep writing…  Page after page was written…  Eventually, I had the start of a book that was at 170 pages…  And still going.

The problem what I had now began stumbling on where to go next.  I knew what was going to happen next, and I already had the end of the book worked out, but I was struggling with how to get there.  I had writers block.

I saved the story on a floppy disc, and I put it away to return to when I had a plan.

Soon the weeks turned in to months…  The months turned in to years…

When I was about 21, or so, I found the disc.  I tried to open my file on the computer, however with the evolution of the computer, there was now no such thing as Word Perfect.  Microsoft Word was now in full force.  After a lot of searching, I managed to find a downloadable programme that would convert the file for me.

Reading through my work, I smiled at the time, effort and imagination that had poured in to this piece of writing.  But when I got to the end, I was in the same place as before.  I could still remember the ending, but I didn’t know how to get there.

In a moment of madness, I erased my work.  It was as though it had never been written.

Thinking about it now, I was really silly to do such a thing.

However, I have been thinking that maybe I should try again.  I am older now; over double my age from when I first started writing the book; and I have experience.  The experience of the highs and lows of life; the expectations of life; and more importantly, my imagination is in full bloom.  I really must put my creative mind to work.

So, if, in a few years, you see a newly published book in your local bookstore, and it has my name on it, don’t forget where you first heard of me.

Here’s hoping.

Are you more well read than the BBC thinks you are?

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

I really don’t know how old this list is, but I found it on a BBC page some time ago and I’ve been meaning to post it up.



1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.

2) Tally your total at the bottom.


How many have you read?


1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen X

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte X

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible  X

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott  X

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy  X

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll  X

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame  X

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia  X

34 Emma – Jane Austen  X

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis  X

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden  X

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen  X

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck  X

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Siebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding  X

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens   X

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker  X

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett  X

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome  X

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens  X

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker  X

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White  X

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom  X

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams  X

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare  X

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl  X

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


Total Read: 25

Writers Block

I’ve always wanted my own blog.  Well, let me be honest with you; I’ve had MANY blogs over the years, but they always seem to run dry because I just stop posting…  That, and I can’t remember my login details for them ha ha.

This blog is relatively easy.  I’ve set it up for thoughts and opinions on my travel experiences, and to share some of my tried & tested recipes.  I think I’m doing well so far, but with so many blogs out there that offer similar sorts of things, and those who post so much more often than I do, I must admit that I’m starting to run a little dry.

My husband is a professional photographer.  He shoots weddings, portraits, events, “bump & baby” and so much more…  I sometimes assist him as the ‘second photographer’, but mainly I’m “behind the scenes”, so to say, as the ‘Creative Director’.  That’s an over-elaborate way of saying that I pose people.

I’m certainly not classing myself as a photographer (well, I suppose I am in my own way), but I’d love to be able to just take my camera everywhere and then make a post about a certain photograph…  However, there are way too many blogs out there who do exactly the same thing.

There are so many things that I could actually make a post about…  For example, did you know that I am a fully qualified PADI Open Water Diver?  Did you know that camping is one of my favourite hobbies?  Did you know that I have been training in Kung Fu for 19 years, and that I teach in my own martial arts school twice a week (I’ve had my own school for nearly 10 years!)?  Did you know that I am an ornithologist, with an expertise in Zebra Finches?

I’ve just been chatting to my husband about the whole blogging idea.  He recommended I try Google+ blogging, as not only is there a new blogging system, but there are so many ideas on what I’d be able to post about.  I’m not too sure.  I don’t like change.  I like WordPress.  I’m used to the system, I like the way that I can personalise the layout of my blog and much more too.  I mean, is moving to Google+ a good thing?  Is it easy to use..?  You wouldn’t really think a 31 year old could be a bit of a technophobe, but there you go.  I may go and have a look, but somehow, I think I will be returning here faster than you could put the kettle on.

I think I’ll leave my post here.  If anyone has any wondrous ideas for me to write a post, please feel free to get in touch.  I’m open to ideas…