Category Archives: review

The house buying queen …

… hits the road today. Goodness me what a whirl it is. Yesterday, 3 estate agents came round and valued our flat rather higher than we actually thought it was going to be, 2 of them estimating it at the £240k mark, though the other agent valued it ridiculously highly. So, with cautious smiles on our faces, we have discounted the latter and gone with one of the other two agents and it should be on all the usual house-buying websites sometime fairly soon. Gosh, I almost sound like an adult, ho ho.

In the meantime, I have been viewing. I didn’t like yesterday’s house in Bramley though it was very well done indeed. The rooms simply felt a bit small and the garden ditto. This morning was a riot – the first house the agent took me to see we couldn’t actually get into as the lock was jammed, poor chap. It’s burglar-proof for sure … Though now I’ve seen the location, I’m not as keen as I was. The second viewing was then cancelled as the house-owner couldn’t get home in time (I’m not really sure why they need to be there at all – is it my criminal past??), but that one I would like to reschedule if we can. The third viewing was of a property in Normandy which is our favourite so far (K managed to make it there during his lunch hour, hurrah!), though there’s not much to compare it with yet. The rooms downstairs were a bit small but two of the bedrooms were spacious and it had a good garden, though whether we can manage one-third of an acre is anyone’s guess, frankly. And the location is pretty dang good too. We’ll see, eh. A lot depends on whether we can get a buyer for our place – then and only then do people start to look at us as a serious option.

Other life excitements this week is that I’ve had my annual flu jab – though I nearly forgot to pay and was halfway down the Tesco aisle before I remembered and hurried back – they were very grateful! And isn’t Whitechapel just great – I can’t wait for next Monday’s episode. It’s utterly bizarre, but gripping and the characters are wonderful.

Book news:

I have a fabulous new cover for my upcoming GLBT short story, Brady’s Choice, which I love as it’s incredibly strong as an image in my view. The story is due out on 23 January and you can read the beginning here.  I’m also pleased to say that The Hit List found itself at No 64 in the Amazon charts though it’s dropped a little now.

And my review of Natasha Solomons’ Mr Rosenblum’s List can be found at Vulpes Libris today. A decent enough story, but not very meaty and I think the real plot lies in the war …

Anyway, here are this week’s meditations:

Meditation 446
Under this dry river bed
the secret water flows

diamond-bright
when it comes

and blood-red
when it goes.

Meditation 447
All you really need
for a miracle

are a few drops of oil,
a lot of empty jars

and the will to begin.

Anne Brooke

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Miracles and men

Life News:

Such miraculous news to know that at last the Chilean miners are safe – so many things that could have gone wrong and they just didn’t, hurrah. Amazing news indeed! I just hope the world now leaves them alone to recover from such a terrible ordeal, but no doubt we won’t. But it’s seriously lovely to hear of something glorious rather than something grim for once.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we’re finally putting the flat on the market next week as three estate agents are coming round on Wednesday, so I hope there’s at least one there who’s confident about selling it. Great to be taking the next step in the process indeed. On the left you can see what the Victorian house itself looks like. We’re the servants’ quarters at the top. As it were. Because when it was built for one of the local schoolmasters in 1873, the servants would have lived where we do now. Plus ca change, eh …

Turning to television matters, it’s a serious delight to have the glorious Whitechapel back on our screens at last, though sadly for too swift a time. Though it’s a serious disappointment that the otherwise extremely classy Downton Abbey took a turn for the worse last Sunday and included a very ridiculous Midsomer Murders plotline, sigh. Don’t get me wrong: I love Midsomer Murders with a great and abiding passion, but not in the middle of Downton Abbey, per-lease. And it was doing so well too …

Book News:

I’m thrilled that today my author’s copies of A Dangerous Man have arrived and look lovely, hurrah. Publication day is tomorrow (Friday 15 October) so I’m really looking forward to that. Erastes has very kindly republished an original review from 2007, when the book was first published, so a big thank you for that! And I’m pleased to say that people do seem to be preordering the novel at Barnes & Noble, which is very nice indeed.

Also at Barnes & Noble (what great people they are!), you can find a copy of Sunday Haiku, which is a more meditative read. Meanwhile, Tommy’s Blind Date gained a really enthusiastic 4-star review at Three Dollar Bill Reviews, so many thanks for that, Kassa – it’s much appreciated. And The Delaneys and Me appeared briefly at No 58 in the Amazon charts, but has now slipped back onto the shelf once more.

Finally, I’ve reviewed Diana Wynne Jones’ magical children’s fantasy, Enchanted Glass at Vulpes Libris Reviews. It’s pretty dang good for adults too.

These week’s meditations are:

Meditation 442
A downbeat end,
the epitome of grim

when what one expected
was a rousing hymn.

Meditation 443
The first man
to fall off a balcony
didn’t make
particularly good choices
but he certainly
started a trend.

Meditation 444
A journey, an oath,
a cloak and divided water
show that a miracle

can also be
the beginning of grief.

Anne Brooke

Painting and proofs

Book News:

This week I’ve been working on the final proofs for A Dangerous Man and have just now sent them back to Cheyenne Publishing and Bristlecone Pine Press ready for publication date on 15 October. Nearly there, gosh. I’ve been thrilled today to see that the novel is included in the Lambda Literary October listings (Mystery & Thriller section), and that’s a seriously good place to be showcased, double gosh.

Meanwhile, Maloney’s Law gained a 5-star review at Goodreads, so many thanks for that, Nicci – so glad you enjoyed the story. I’m also very happy indeed that Tommy’s Blind Date is No 4 in the Amber Allure September Bestseller lists, and many thanks to those who’ve put it there. And I’m equally happy that I appear twice in Jessewave Reviews’ September Recommended Reads list, once with good old Tommy’s Blind Date and once with Tuluscan Six and the Time Circle – thank you, Wave!

Over at Vulpes Libris, you can find my review of Jane Green’s Girl Friday, which is a fabulous novel for the over-forties, and we so definitely need more of those. And the lovely Kirsty has also published a wonderful haiku-review of my Sunday Haiku collection – many thanks, Kirsty!

Here are this week’s meditation poems:

Meditation 438
Wine and women
are a heady brew;

they befuddle kings
and confound the things

that are true.
Who knew?

Meditation 439
Men become liars
and truth hides
in the deepest well

when the story we long for
is not the one
where we dwell.

Life News:

K has been in Dubai all this week and I have missed him LOADS. Thankfully he’s back tonight (hurrah!!) and is even now jetting his way towards Heathrow, so it will be totally lovely to have him back again. Goodness me but I was super-wimpy when he left at some ungodly hour on Monday morning – only barely managing not to grab him by the ankles and weep. Lordy, never say I’m not stylish, though what style it actually is must be anyone’s guess.

Anyway, it’s been strange rattling about in this old Victorian house all on my own for several days, but I have kept myself busy by doing bucketloads of DIY each evening when I got back from work – with the result that the spare room walls and ceiling are now painted with four coats, and the skirting board and door glossed with two. Oh and those proofs have kept me focused too, so that’s been good.

Work’s been horrendously busy as well, what with being the first week of term, and I simply haven’t had time to sit down, my dears. Not one second. I couldn’t even spare the time (or the energy) to go to Starbucks, and the wonderful Ruth had to bring me not one but two coffees where I sat pinned to my desk and panicking like a trouper. What a superstar that woman is. It’s the froth that keeps me going, you know …

Today, one of the vendors from the flat below has been in the house though, so I’ve not been entirely alone. I think we are studiously ignoring each other, which is no doubt best, and really I don’t have any desire at all to communicate with them again, to be honest. Yes, that probably means I’m a bad person but hey at least I’m honest about it. I’d feel happier about it if K was home as it’s a little unsettling, but as long as said vendor doesn’t try to talk to me I’ll be fine. Though if you do hear tell of a man being pinned to a landing wall with a screwdriver in a small Surrey town, I trust that all of you will vouch for my obviously impeccable character. Ho hum.

Anne Brooke

Freshers Galore

Life News:

Great news – I survived Freshers’ Week! As, I think so far and on the whole, have the Freshers themselves, so good news all round really. It was as exhausting and sometimes exhilarating as usual, but to my mind we paced ourselves better this year and that’s made all the difference. Also we knew what we were doing more, as we’d had the first bite at the new system last year so it felt familiar this time round. The biggest help of all though has been that instead of having two Information Point tables (that we’re responsible for), we’ve had one, so it’s meant that Ruth and I don’t have to be there all the time on our separate tables but we’ve been doing about two hours on and two hours off on a rota system during the day so we each get a chance to regroup and stop the work piling up in the office. As I’ve said before, being at the Information Point is much like performing on stage, so I reckon two hours is just about right before the need for an interval comes upon us.

Naturally, there’ve been some emergencies and last-minute changes, including three lecture theatres being unexpectedly out-of-action so a lot of our time has been spent directing confused people (staff and students alike) to the correct rooms and apologising, though most people have been lovely about it. And, of course, there’s been the odd talk overrunning, with the need for a bit of creative redistribution of stock. As it were. Still, I don’t think anyone saw the join …

Anyway, frankly, it’s been my best Freshers’ Week so far, so a big thank you to Clare W who’s organised it all once again. And an equally big and rather more than slightly tearful farewell to the aforementioned Clare, who’s leaving us this week for better and closer-to-home things … Really, it’s all change in the office, as not only that but Lauren from the Mentoring team is leaving as well (further sobbing, but there’s still time to change your minds, girls!) so last night we all had a farewell early dinner at Ask in Guildford, which was I hope a good send-off for both. And already we have replacements for our disappearing staff, as Steve has been with us for a week in the Mentoring office, and Jon arrives full-time on Monday to sit in Clare’s place. Boys in the office, eh – well, whatever next!…

All this rushing about and preparing for change this week has utterly wiped me out though and I have had a 2.5 hour nap this afternoon, well really and it must be my age … I think it’s done the trick though as I’m ready to continue our mammoth DIY project once K gets home. This morning, I’ve painted half the ceiling in the spare room and put a first coat of gloss on the window alcove skirting board and window ledge. Once the 2nd coat is on, we reckon that the alcove will be done and we can move things back into it, thus creating space in the non-decorated part of the room so we can start having a go at that too. The good news is that the hallway and front door is now finished and looks very nice indeed, hurrah.

The other big excitement is we’ve found out that if you attach the electric sander to the Hoover then there’s virtually no dust, double hurrahs and break out the Bolly. Sanding with a Hoover is therefore our new hobby, so be warned …

Books News:

I’m pleased to say that Tommy’s Blind Date is now available as a Kindle book at Amazon US and Amazon UK, and a copy or two has already been purchased at both stores – which is surprising as Amazon UK Kindle has a lot of catching up to do with its American cousin in these early days of its existence.

Meanwhile, The Hit List received a lovely 4.5 star review at Goodreads, so thank you, Jo, for your comments. And The Delaneys and Me made a brief visit to the Amazon Top 100 charts, but has disappeared once more, alas. Publishers have been busy too, and you can now find all my Untreed Reads books in one convenient location (thanks, Jay!) so if you want to know about dancing, nature, fruit, art or accountancy, or perhaps all of these, you know where to go.

Looking forward to October, I’m delighted that A Dangerous Man, which is due out on 15 October, now has its own page at Cheyenne Publishing – a perfect read for those dark autumnal days indeed.

Meditations so far this week are:

Meditation 434
When engrossed
in your daily chores
do not neglect
the subtle gestures
of God

and see how everything
changes.

Meditation 435
It says something
about a man

when he’d rather give away
his women and children

than his valuables
if he can.

Anne Brooke

Reviews, queues and haikus

Book News:

Tuluscan Six and the Time Circle gained a review at Tam’s Reads today (scroll down to view) so thank you, Tam! And yesterday I was lucky enough to be the featured author at Michelenjeff Reviews and, at the same time, they gave a 5-star review to Tommy’s Blind Date – so thank you also for that.

Meanwhile, determined not to be forgotten, Martin and The Wolf received a 5-star review from Two Lips Reviews – many thanks, Tina. All this is a nice boost for my current gay short story, Brady’s Choice, which is slowly, oh so slowly, being written and I’ve finally struggled my way up to 5,000 words (hurrah!), with another 2000 to go. I think. I’m hoping to get it finished sometime over the next couple of weeks or so but my rate of writing is distinctly not speedy at the moment, so who knows, eh. There’s just a hell of a lot of other stuff going on (see below).

However, I’m pleased to say that my latest poetry collection, Sunday Haiku, is currently being advertised at Goodreads so if you catch it on your travels, please do say hello and maybe even add it to your book list there – poetry’s not as weird as you think! Speaking of shopping, the good news is that there’s 20% off all my Dreamspinner Press titles this weekend so still time to bag yourself a bargain before Monday is upon us.

Here’s a meditation poem for this week:

Meditation 433
There on the mountain
the wind shatters rock,
ground heaves
and strange fire
scorches your skin

but it is only
when your mind eases open
for that still, small voice
that you sense at last
the possible nearness of God.

The Sunday haiku today is:

Nameless shadows drift
across my heart; they stifle
hope and fortitude.

Life News:

Lots of redecorating, DIY and decluttering has continued to take place wherever possible. We’ve now all but finished the hallway – just one section of carpet to take up in order to gloss the skirting board near the front door. We’ve also given the bedroom a lick of paint where needed and cleaned the walls where they’re dirty. Yesterday, K did one trip to the council tip, and today I’ve done two trips, plus an extra trip to the local book recycling point with another five bags of books. I reckon I could probably do another 5 bags of books or more on top of that but I’ll sort those out when I put them back on the spare room shelves. Because at the moment I’m typing this in the middle of the spare room with, behind me, a bare painted area (where the computer usually goes but not now!), and in front of me an area of total clutter. Once the half behind me is fully done, ie painted with a coat or two more, we’ll swap over those areas. To enable this, our three tall book cases which normally stand like sentinels of learning (mainly theology) behind me as I type are now standing in the outside hallway, and the books are on the two smaller bookcases now outside our front door, or on the large bookcases on the remaining shelves (the movable shelves we have stored separately), or in the inner hallway in front of the mirror or in the middle and side of the living room. That includes our domestic and professional business files. Thank goodness there’s only one item to iron tonight, eh, as there’s no room for anything else.

Things I’ve discovered/rediscovered during the course of today: electric sanders are great fun and very good, and the spare room walls are in fact not as bad as we’d feared (there was great gloom and depression last night after we’d washed them but a lick of paint is a marvellous thing indeed even in an old Victorian house); roller painting is fun and fast, and very good for ceilings though I do end up with a white nose that amused K way way too much; my lost sock was hiding behind the bedroom chest of drawers and has after 18 months been reunited with its partner; the Henry Hoover double strength suction pad will try to suck in a shirt if aimed inadvertently in its direction; the cat flap on our front door is not a standard size but we will nail a piece of wood over the damn thing and repaint properly.

While all this has been going on, I spent a large part of yesterday at the University’s Move In Saturday, arriving at 7.45am and leaving at about 3.30pm. It seemed much smoother than last year, possibly because I knew better what I was supposed to be doing, and most students have settled in nicely so far. A fair amount of queueing at our key times but they were all very jolly. Tomorrow Freshers’ Week starts in reality and it will be all systems go at our Information Point from 8.30am to 6pm. Goodness knows how exhausted I’ll be when I get back but I’m planning on tackling the skirting board behind me in the spare room, and K has taken that section of carpet up in advance so I don’t have to think too much. I just like to Paint ‘n Go, you know.

Finally, is it just me, or do all our three main party leaders now look so much like each other that they might as well be triplets? Lordy, I really can’t tell them apart …

Anne Brooke

The Decluttering Queen

Book News:

This week I’ve been delighted that Martin and The Wolf gained a 4-star review at Goodreads – many thanks, Chris. Tuluscan Six and The Time Circle received a 4.5 star review at Jessewave Reviews, so thank you to Val for that.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s Blind Date has been doing well, with a review at Tam’s Reads (scroll down to view), and two 5-star reviews at Goodreads, one from Lisa and one from Stephanie, so a big thank you to you both! And, for the blink of an eye, The Delaneys and Me found itself at No 40 in the Amazon charts but has dropped out now.

Finally, in this section, K and I have been parsing the verb to Kindle, and have decided it’s an irregular verb: I Kindle; you don’t have a Kindle; he/she/it doesn’t know what a Kindle is … Really, I’m loving it.

My latest meditations are:

Meditation 430
To question God
with raw honesty

is better
than a thousand pleasant lies

told in the secret passages
of your heart.

Meditation 431
Sow in the field
of desire

and reap
a harvest of death;

sow in the field
of kindness

and reap
a harvest of life.

Meditation 432
A whisper from the sea
seven times softer
than the salty air
you breathe.

When the dark clouds dance
and the wind sings,
run before the promise
of rain, rejoicing.

Life News:

Well, it’s been inevitable really, and certainly since the beginning of September when it all went horribly wrong, but K and I have this week now officially withdrawn from the flat-buying disaster and have, in a brief email to them and their solicitors, wished the vendors luck in whatever they decide to do with their flat from now on. Well, a former boss of mine once told me – and he was right – always to end a quarrel with courtesy so that is what we have attempted to do. Time to lick our wounds, take a deep breath and move on, once our solicitor’s bill is paid, of course!

With this in mind, we’ve been continuing to paint and declutter our flat ready for potential buyers, and have managed to clear the place of nine bags of recyclable clothes and two bin-bags of clothes not even charity shops would take. We have also thrown away a lot of our old video tapes (though I can’t bring myself to part with all my Star Trek ones – no way!) and have therefore all but filled three wheelie-bins full of rubbish again. And the binmen aren’t collecting rubbish until Tuesday week as we’re on a fortnightly cycle so Lord knows where I’ll be putting the old/unwanted food leftovers … Help!

We have also given at least one coat of paint to everything in the hallway that needs lightening up, apart from the skirting board as we need to take the carpet up for that. And I have washed the spare room walls where I can get to them between the bookcases ready for giving that a coat of paint too. There’ll be more stuff to throw away from the spare room but some of that is a council tip job so I think K and I will have to tackle that together.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also had my regular hospital appointment with the lovely Alli, and we’ve now decided that I’ll be coming off the HRT to try to avoid the need for another operation to take my right ovary out, as it’s not very good really. Poor thing, I’m quite fond of it, you know – I think it’s called George – and I’d like to try to save it. But I am a bit worried as to what it might do in terms of my mood swings, which the HRT was helping a lot with, so I will have to try to keep a close eye on how I am (not easy when I could be either screaming with rage and brandishing the nearest weaponry or weeping like a klutz all over the dining room table, and sometimes both!…) and keep taking the St John’s Wort which is also marvellous for my happiness levels. We’ll see.

So, thank goodness for a night out on Tuesday with the lovely Jane and Tanya, the latter of whom I’d not seen for ages so it was great to catch up. The French restaurant Jane chose ( Cote in Guildford) was fabulous too and the food top-notch though we were all puzzled as to why there was a choice of having your mushroom soup either hot or cold. Yuk! The French are a mysterious folk indeed. We’re also at that age where none of us can read the menu unless it’s at arm’s length, which caused great amusement to our fellow diners. Ah well. We’re not getting any younger, you know …

Anne Brooke

Reviews and DIY delights

Book News:

I’m very happy to say that Tommy’s Blind Date gained a lovely 4.5 star review at Jessewave Reviews – so thank you, Wave, for that! It’s also been lucky enough to gain two 4 star reviews at Goodreads, one from Ami and the other from Chris – many thanks, both. It’s much appreciated.

Determined not to be left behind, Tuluscan Six and the Time Circle also received its first review at Obsidian Bookshelf, which I’m very pleased about. Thank you, Val! I’d been worried nobody liked it at all so nice to know some do.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing the edits for The Prayer Seeker and hope to have finished them by the time we get to Freshers’ Week (aarrgghh!!!) at the end of September. I like to have a clear head for battle, don’t you know.

Here at the meditations so far this week:

Meditation 425
For everything on earth
there is a price;

the only question is
when you pay it.

Meditation 426
If I’d been king
for only seven days

I too would want to die
in fire and heat and agony

if only so the buggers
remembered me.

Meditation 427
Another year, another king
leads to more disputes,
one new town,
not much action
and no-one’s learnt a thing.

Meditation 428
For the city’s foundation
you lose a son

and for its gates
your youngest dies:

so God’s sacrifice
when it is done

should come to you
as no surprise.

Life News:

Hmmm, ruddy vendors. What can I say? I’ve really lost interest in them and in their flat myself now, so if that’s what they were aiming for, they’ve certainly succeeded. What’s happened most recently? Well, they were fairly unhelpful over the weekend (which is becoming something of a hobby for them really), accusing us of chopping and changing our demands. We responded by saying that may indeed be true, now, but it is after all a skill we have learnt from them. No response to that, yet, hey ho. We have therefore returned the plants we were tending on their behalf to the flat – well, we don’t want to be accused of taking them without permission even though that’s what they agreed to (vendor memories don’t last long, I fear …)! We have also removed the items of our neighbour that have been in our outer hall cupboard and put them back in his flat (neatly, of course – how could you think otherwise, ho ho?! – and we have at least informed them that’s what we’ve done), and taken the precaution of fixing the cupboard with a padlock and marking it as ours. Just in case of dispute, don’t you know. Really, it’s been nice to store some of our larger items in it and creates much needed space for us.

Therefore, in the interests of making our flat as purchasable as possible, I have scrubbed the outer hall stairs and window, tidied and dusted the shared hallway, sanded and washed the bathroom door and skirting board, cleaned the fridge, and K and I have washed the kitchen walls. Lordy, we’re good! Actually, if the vendors do unexpectedly start playing nice and taking our offer seriously, I’m now at the point where I actually don’t want it any more. I think it will be far nicer to move elsewhere, frankly. Their loss. And I do think it’s high time K and I moved on.

Today, Liz came round for tea (hello, Liz!) and we had a lovely chat whilst she admired our sparkling new hallway. We then put the world to rights, and the universe is now perfect. Don’t blink in case you miss it!

Anne Brooke