Friday, 11 July 2014

Review: Two organic chocolates

Today we take a look - I mean, a taste - of two organic chocolates. Pirkka is a Finnish brand, but a careful study of the wrappings reveals that the chocolate is Swiss. Sounds promising.

The first victim is white chocolate with raspberry. The pieces are rather modest in their appearance, but the colour is a pretty pink. Raspberry flavour is stronger than I expected and it tastes authentic (not one of those artificial raspberry flavours). There are small pieces of raspberry scattered here and there and they do indeed appear to be real (seeds and all!). I have nothing to say about the white chocolate itself - it is sweet, as white chocolate tends to be, and has no particular character. That's fine, though - raspberry takes centre stage and I like that.

The other sample comes from dark chocolate. As far as dark chocolates go, it is not particularly impressive (not even very dark, I might add), with a somewhat dry rather than that melt-in-your-mouth texture. The tiny pieces of cocoa brittle, however, make up for this. They have a strong taste that could almost be described as roasted - they make me think of cocoa beans! They're very crispy, though, almost too hard to crack with your teeth. Still, they are what definitely 'makes' this chocolate.

I might buy either one of these again – in fact, I already have! Or my husband did, apparently reading my mind: I forgot to taste the two chocolates together, and I think they might make a great combination! Definitely needs a new tasting session. The fact that they're organic and fairtrade chocolates is certainly a bonus.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Alone with your feelings?

Does this ever happen to you? If it does, how do you cope?

That image on The Bluestocking Review's Page in Facebook reminded me of how, when you've read a truly great book, you want to talk about it so badly. Yes, even a total introvert like me gets that urge! You're bursting with thoughts and feelings and impressions, and yearning to hear how others experienced the book...

These days it's rarely a problem. There's Goodreads and book forums and Facebook sites and everything. You can read reviews and follow discussions (there may not be an exact fandom, but there probably are people who have read the book). A good discussion about a thought-provoking book is a wonderful thing, but, amazingly, it can also lead to other things.

I read Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' many years ago, and then, over a decade ago now (I had likely read the next book or two in the series by then), I started looking for others who had read it. I found my way to a fan site titled 'Ladies of Lallybroch' where I posted an introduction. I soon received an email from another reader, who said that something about my post just made her want to write to me. We started writing emails, and realised we had almost eerily much in common. She doesn't live in Finland, but we've met a couple of times, and our DHs also got on very well.

Some time later, I fell in love with M. C. Scott's Boudica series. After finishing the fourth and final book, I had to find someone to talk about it with. I discovered the author's discussion forum. It might not have been the biggest online community, but it was lovely, with people brought together by their love for the books and the characters and with an ability to engage in both serious discussions and completely crazy chitchat. I met two of my friends there, again people who live in different parts of the world from me, but people I feel very comfortable 'with' (I've met only one of them in person, but distance doesn't matter).

So, what began as a need to talk about a book led to wonderful friendships. We still sometimes talk about THE books, but mostly, now, about other things. I have shared much with these friends, and I'm very grateful that they're in my life. These books will always be special for me for that reason.

I'm also very lucky in that my husband loves reading. When I get that urge to talk about a book, there's someone who listens and understands (and doesn't think you're crazy when you rave about fictional characters and their lives). And I get to hear about the books he finds interesting. The best is when we read the same book and can talk about it (we both just finished 'The Hunter from the Woods' by Robert McCammon, and we love it – lycanthrope lore! An action-packed book with warmth and depth! And... actually, just read my husband's review). The first such book was Guy Gavriel Kay's 'Lions of Al-Rassan', something my husband, then my boyfriend, used to entice me to read fantasy. And he knew me well then already (must've been over 14 years ago): I loved the book and still count it among my favourites. Once I had read it, we sat at the dinner table for about three hours and talked and talked...

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Story sample

You can now get a taste of my story, 'Blood is Thicker' which is featured in the 'Elite: Tales from the Frontier' anthology. The prologue to the story was published on the anthology site, here, and it is not included in the book itself! So this is a rare opportunity to take a look at it.

And if you don't already know about the anthology in question, it is a collection of 15 stories, set in the Elite: Dangerous universe. Published by Fantastic Books Publishing, the ebook is already available (you'll find the links at the anthology site), and paperbacks, hardcovers and audiobooks are ready for pre-order.