Monday 31 December 2012

2012 in reflection

We were spared by the Mayan prophecy, so today is officially the last of 2012! It's been a varied year for me, in both life and blogging.

In terms of the blog, there are many things that I'm grateful to have accomplished, and certainly wouldn't have thought possible when the year began. There is also much I would have done differently and plan to take advantage of in 2013.

Stand-out moments

More readers I'm so grateful for everyone who has joined my blog over the past year. When all this began, I didn't think I'd have even 30 readers! I hope you stick around because I have a few things up my sleeve for 2013.

Guest posts and interviews I've been fortunate enough to have been in contact with some wonderful authors, publishers, PR companies and so forth, and I can't wait to do this some more in 2013. A notable post is my interview with author Trilby Kent, who wrote what has become one of my favourite novels.

Talking to EL James I never thought I'd have the chance to talk to a best-selling author, much less the one behind this year's biggest release! Watch what happened here.

Published by Company It was a big moment when I was asked to contribute a piece for Company magazine's iPhone app. To have been recognised for something like this gives me a little more faith in my writing abilities.

Changes for the New Year

Reading 2012 hasn't been my best year for reading. Many factors contributed, like exams and work commitments. But it seems as though I'm coming out of this lull and will have more luck in 2013. One of the first challenges I'm setting myself is to read the entire Harry Potter series. I can't wait!

Networking I have been awful at networking this year. I haven't visited many blogs, posted much on Twitter, and have rarely conversed with fellow book lovers on sites such as Goodreads and Book Blogs. Look for a more active and sociable Sophie in 2013!

Events I want to attend more events in the new year. I might not be able to make it to New York for 2013's Book Expo America, but I aim to attend the London Book Fair and Oxford Literary Festival. Perhaps I might even finally meet up with some fellow bloggers?


Happy New Year, everybody! What are your own goals for 2013?

Thursday 27 December 2012

Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter. Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. (via Goodreads)

It feels great to have finally read The Philosopher's Stone! Though I thought they were good, I wasn't completely spellbound by the films and hadn't watched all eight until they were shown on the movie channels. But, having then done so and felt their appeal grow on me, I decided it was time to at least attempt to read the books.

Sometimes when a book is well-loved by such a wide audience, it can be daunting delving into its pages for the first time because of such expectancy. Thankfully, though, I enjoyed The Philosopher's Stone. Rowling has done an amazing job of creating a hidden world of whimsical magic, I wished for it to be real. I thought, must I live in the Muggle world? Why couldn't I get a letter inviting me to study at Hogwarts? On my next trip to London, should I go searching for Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station? And it seems unfair that I can't get an owl to deliver my mail!

The book is also very British, which I loved. Even though Hogwarts is an establishment like no other, I was still brought back to my own school days with that beginning-of-year uncertainty, teachers that both encouraged and intimidated, and students who were prefects, head boys and girls, good friends and aggravating classmates, and, of course, those uniforms.

However, one thing lost on me was some of the excitement, having seen the film quite recently and remembering the outcome of certain events. Though as with any adaptation, many parts of the book had been changed or left out completely, which meant that some suspense still lingered.

I plan on reading the next couple of books in the series, at the very least, which I'm eager to do as soon as possible. If things go well, this'll probably all result in a partial addiction (I already want take the train into London and go on a Potter tour!)

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday 24 December 2012

Special holiday price: Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista

If you're looking for an exciting new read for your Kindle or Nook, and like to delve into the world of legal thrillers, this might interest you.

As part of a special promotion, Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista is now $1.99 until 7th January! It's also just £1.64 for Kindle owners in the UK.

Buy now at:
Barnes and Noble

You can find an extract from the novel, which I posted in October, here. The blurb is below:
 When Ali Hussein—suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda—is finally transported from Gitmo to the US mainland to stand trial, many are stunned when Byron Carlos Johnson, pre-eminent lawyer and the son of a high-profile diplomat, volunteers as counsel. On principle, Johnson thought he was merely defending a man unjustly captured through Rendition and water-boarded illegally. But Johnson soon learns that there is much more at stake than one man’s civil rights.

Hussein’s intimate knowledge of key financial transactions could lead to the capture of—or the unabated funding of—the world’s most dangerous terror cells. This makes Hussein the target of corrupt US intelligence forces on one side, and ruthless international terrorists on the other. And, it puts Byron Carlos Johnson squarely in the crosshairs of both.

Pulled irresistibly by forces he can and cannot see, Johnson enters a lethal maze of espionage, manipulation, legal traps and murder. And when his life, his love, and his acclaimed principles are on the line, Johnson may have one gambit left that can save them all; a play that even his confidants could not have anticipated. He must become the hunter among hunters in the deadliest game.

Written by no-holds-barred-attorney Paul Batista, Extraordinary Rendition excels not only as an action thriller, but as a sophisticated legal procedural as well; tearing the curtains away from the nation’s most controversial issues.

Provocative. Smart. Heart-pounding. A legal thriller of the highest order.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm. (via Goodreads)

Breakfast at Tiffany's has been one of my favourite films for years, so I thought it was about time that I read the short story it's based on.

Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed; Capote is truly a beautiful writer. I loved that Holly, the protagonist, is seen directly through the eyes of an unnamed narrator (he's called various things by Holly – Fred, Buster, Cookie, etc – but never his real name). You can sense this man's obsession with each encounter, and the internal battles he faces just trying to keep himself from thinking too much about her.

He is completely bewitched by Holly's life, as I felt myself becoming on each page. Holly is such a complex character with many contradictions, and such a naïve and romantic way of seeing herself and those around her. 

All this is brought to life with Capote's evocative, almost poetic writing style. At various intervals, I had to stop and note down the page numbers of various sentences and passages that I thought were particularly effectual. Here's one:
"The morning light seemed refracted through her: as she pulled the bed covers up to my chin she gleamed like a transparent child."
It feels like it's been such a long time since I've found a story that has captured my interest as much as Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's different to the film in various ways (for example, the book is set in Manhattan during the 2nd World War, while the film is early 1960's), but this is nothing surprising.

Truly a glamorous and entertaining read.

Rating: 4 / 5

Friday 21 December 2012

Visiting Professor Tolkien's final resting place

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

It's been a big couple of weeks in Middle Earth for me. Not only did I see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and re-read the novel, but I also visited the final resting place of J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife, Edith.

It didn't occur to me until recently to find out where he was buried. I knew that he lived and worked in Oxford, which is a mere 45 minute drive from my home on a good day, but I never thought of visiting him. When I looked it up on Google, I was surprised to find that he's buried in a cemetery owned by the Oxfordshire County Council in the city's north – somewhere I can access very easily.

So, Sunday I finally visited Professor Tolkien and Mrs Tolkien with a couple of friends who I managed to drag along with me. There, in Wolvercote Cemetery, we soon found the pair; mingling and blending in amongst all the other departed.

Indeed, there is nothing especially remarkable about their grave. It isn't the biggest, flashiest grave in the cemetery, nor is it hidden inside a special chamber. The only indication that there would be anything different about the good couple's grave is the signposting that guides well-wishers to their site. But when you do come across it, you recognise someone special now rests there from all the trinkets, mementos, letters, and drawings that decorate the little patch of garden above their heads.

It says so much about the values of Professor Tolkien and his family. He saw himself as a regular person, who was accepting of others, and a deep romantic. It's impossible not to admire.

What's more, is that I felt like I was visiting someone I had known personally because of the fact that he is buried in such a normal place. We shared the cemetery with many coming to pay respects to their mothers, fathers, sisters, uncles, husbands, wives, and so forth.

This has only accelerated my love for Professor Tolkien's work, and my admiration of his remarkable life. If only all heroes were this wonderful to meet!

A return to Middle Earth form with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [spoiler free]

Last week, I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey twice in three days (2D & 3D). I was interested to see if there would be any cinematic continuity, for example would it still feel like a Lord of the Rings franchise film? Would there be an obvious link, or could I see it becoming another version of the Star Wars prequel debacle? And not to mention that I've missed the glory days Peter Jackson's version of Middle Earth! Will the first Hobbit instalment be swiping all the Academy Awards like its predecessors?

My first screening was in 2D on opening day, and it blew me away. Or, more specifically, back to 2004 where The Return of the King left off. Watching The Hobbit in 2D is most definitely the best way to go if you're nostalgic for The Lord of the Rings, and want the same experience. This was exactly what I wanted. I left the cinema in a daze, feeling as though I had been brought back to a time which I've always craved to visit again. It was magnificent, and I didn't want to leave.

Some familiar characters return, for example Frodo (Elijah Wood) and an older Bilbo (Ian Holm), and there's Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving). We even see familiar places: Weathertop, Rivendell, and the Shire are just some. The new faces are also delightful; the dwarves are very well-interpreted, and I loved the unscheduled appearance by Radagast the Brown (a previously unseen Tolkien creation played excellently by Sylvester McCoy).

My only casting complaint is that of Martin Freeman, who plays the younger Bilbo. Though he can pull off the lighter, whimsical side of Bilbo's personality, I wasn't convinced by his portrayal of more serious moments. Maybe Freeman will grow on me.

And then there's 3D, which provides a completely different viewing experience. For a start, Jackson decided that he would film The Hobbit at a frame rate of 48 frames-per-second, instead of the more conventional 24fps. What this means is that because more detail is captured on film, what you see on screen is super-HD quality: you can spot every vain, every spark. You can even decipher each dwarf's face during a chaotic fight scene.

However, while this was impressive, I didn't appreciate it. I found it, at times, gimmicky and distracting. Sometimes I even felt like I was watching a video game (a common complaint, it seems, made by viewers). I certainly didn't feel as awe-struck and nostalgic as I did the first time around. Of course, opinions will be different for each individual. But as I'm a person who wears glasses already, I find it annoying having to put another pair on top of those I'm already wearing! Perhaps that's something I should've taken into account before choosing 3D. Also, I wonder if this seemingly controversial mode of high frame-rate shooting will hinder The Hobbit's chances of full Oscar glory? We'll have to see this awards season.

Otherwise, I loved this first instalment. It steers away from Tolkien's original novel at times, as film adaptations generally do, but I found myself rather accepting of this. The screenwriters have done such a good job and it's obvious that they put in a lot of heart, respect, and research into their reworkings.

Also, if you haven't done so in a while, I'd highly recommend watching The Fellowship of the Ring before going to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – there are some charming little nods between the two which are too good to pass by.

Welcome back, Middle Earth!

Have you seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? What did you think?

Friday 7 December 2012

Review: Alight: the Peril by K.C. Neal [Pyxis book 2]

Spoiler alert!
Don't read this review unless you've read Pyxis (book one)!

When Corinne learns who the second Guardian is, she must find a way to make peace with the last person in the world she wants to deal with. As she struggles, her nemesis unleashes an otherworldly evil, and a mysterious illness strikes Corinne’s friends. Faltering under the weight of her destiny, Corinne escapes to the dream world. There, she meets Zane, an Australian guy with a hot accent and a revelation that binds them together and alters the path of Corinne’s life. She throws herself into fighting for everything she loves, but just as she’s certain she will prevail, she’s robbed of what she needs most. (via Goodreads)

It's been over a year since I read the first Pyxis book, The Discovery, which was easily one of my favourite reads of 2011. The cliffhanger had me waiting with bated breath for Alight – what was going to happen to Corinne, Mason, and Angeline now? And who would this other guardian be? My expectations were high.

Unfortunately, Alight has that middle-syndrome; where the novel acts as a bridge to the beginning and end of a series, causing the plot to slow down (something Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins also suffers from). Not a lot of big, interesting things happen.

Because of this, the book dragged. There seemed to be a lot of waiting around when I expected more action. I also wanted more character descriptions – it's been so long since I read The Discovery that I'd forgotten what Corinne and her friends looked like.

Even so, there was enough content to keep me interested in the Pyxis series. The description of events is very clear; from the movement between different realms to the connection between members of the union. I also appreciated the appearance of the Aussie character, Zane, and the intrigue he provided.

A lot of questions certainly have arisen from Alight. It's not the perfect novel, but I still can't wait to find out answers to all these questions I have!

Rating: 3 / 5

Thursday 6 December 2012

Find me in Company Magazine's Weekly Edit!

Company magazine have featured me in the latest issue of their weekly iPhone app, the Company Weekly Edit!

You can download the app for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to read my piece here.

Each issue costs 69p so make sure you download issue 9 (published today). It doesn't matter if you live outside of the UK – you can read it from anywhere in the world (this screenshot came from my amazing cousin Jaclyn in Australia!)

Now I can finally say I have something published! Thank you so much, Company!!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Free book for Kindle – Baby by Katherine Hole

To celebrate its release, author Katherine Hole is offering her debut novel, Baby, as a free Kindle download on December 5th, 6th, and 13th.

Here's the blurb:
For fans of YA fiction comes a dark love story with a gritty, urban twist. 

Charlie Knight is like any other teenager, until the day he meets the beautiful, mysterious Ava and falls under her spell. With her sexy voice, mesmerizing eyes and radiant smile, Ava is the girl of Charlie's dreams, and he will do anything to have her. Soon, his obsession leads him into a dark and terrifying world where nothing is what it seems and only the strong survive . . . 

Deeply seductive and irresistibly compelling, Baby is a dark love story with a shocking twist that will leave you breathless!

Download it at or