Tuesday 24 November 2015

Crossword Puzzle - November 2015

Guess what time of the month it is, everyone.

That's right, it's crossword time!

Here's the puzzle for November 2015. Now, if you don't know how this works, it's very simple. Solve this puzzle, and e-mail me the answers, before I publish them on this blog in a month's time. If you're the first to send me the correct answers before then, I'll put your name in that post, and declare you the winner.

Sound simple enough? Let's get started....


1 Belonging to us (3)
4 Throw (3)
8 Help (3)
10 Having many sides (12)
12 Every sixty minutes (6)
16 King (5)
18 Closest relative to man (3)
19 First day of work week (3)
21 Assembly of clergy (5)
22 Christian creed (6)
25 Able to determine quantity (12)
28 Second sound of a clock (3)
29 Built by some spiders (3)
30 Metal wind instrument (3)


2 Not pretty (4)
3 Image format (3)
5 Lyric poem (3)
6 Last letter of the Latin alphabet (3)
7 Fifteenth letter of Greek alphabet (7)
8 Hinged surface on aeroplane wing (7)
9 Russian cottage (5)
11 Black sticky stuff (3)
13 Influenced by opsonin (7)
14 U-turn (3)
15 Sung by rapidly altering between the normal voice and falsetto. (7)
17 English suffix (3)
20 Nit (5)
23 Tea (3)
24 Swedish pop group (4)
25 Iranian city (3)
26 Bill, the Science Guy (3)
27 Enemy (3)

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Crossword Puzzle - October 2015 Answers

Can you believe that it's time again, for the answers to the monthly crossword puzzle?

No winners to announce this month. Maybe they were just shy. How did you do?


1 Carson, author (3) Rae
4 Afrikaans "doos" (3) box
8 Computer animated talking parrot (3) Rio
10 Allow (3) let
11 Promise to pay debt (3) IOU
12 Little plastic building blocks (4) Lego
13 Tolstoy (3) Leo
14 Three times (6) triple
16 Ask nicely (6) please
19 Jik (6) bleach
23 Christian rapper (6) Carman
25 It's what we breathe (3) air
26 TV psychologist (4) Phil
27 Ilness causing aching muscles (3) flu
29 Thus was it written (3) sic
30 Female sibling (3) sis
31 Vehicle with internal combustion engine (3) car
32 Can be high or low in poker (3) Ace


2 British PM from 1945 to 1951 (6) Attlee
3 Story of a person (3) bio
5 Strigine (7) owllike
6 Alcohol (5) booze
7 Helium powered flying machine (5) blimp
8 Mobs getting out of control (5) riots
9 Get rid of (4) oust
15 Laceration (abbr.) (3) lac
17 (slang) A flirtatious woman (3) lea
18 Armband awarded to Roman soldiers (7) armilla
20 Hawaiian party (5) luaus
21 Extension of a bird's lung (6) air-sac
22 A place for keeping rabbits (5) hutch
23 Comedic heist (5) caper
24 Elaborate table decorations in the shapes of ships (4) nefs
28 Actress with many husbands (3) Liz

See you next week, for the November 2015 puzzle.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Tales from Virdura: Runt Wizard

Young Solon stared stoically ahead as two of his tormentors held him down, and a third ripped off his shirt from behind.

He gritted his teeth as the thin reed stung his naked back. And a second time. And a third.
Solon vowed that he would not cry out. He was the son of the Royal Wizard, and he would carry himself as such.

Three other children danced around him, snorting like pigs and calling him names.

“Foolborn runt!” they chanted. “Where is your all-powerful magic now?”

The mocking continued, and the lashings went on. Seven now, and Solon could feel blood trickling down his back. He focused on the smell of the boys’ sweat, mixed in with the dust of the dry, arid field they were in. Despite himself, a single tear ran down his left cheek.

“Oh, he’s a cry-baby now too, eh?” said one of the boys. “Pathetic bastard son of a useless mage.”

Something inside Solon snapped. His eyes shot open, and under his breath, he began reciting an old incantation.

Another thwack of the reed.

“What’s he doing now, do you think?”

“Speaking gibberish. I think we may have beaten him a little too hard, boys.”

While his tormentors laughed, nobody noticed the storm clouds gathering overhead. Nobody paid any attention to the flash of lightning, and clap of thunder indicating how close it was.

Above a boy’s head (the one who had insulted Solon’s father), the sky crackled, and a blue bolt began to take shape, high up in the clouds.


The lightning bolt dissipated, and the clouds began to clear. Only then did the boys look up, noticing the sudden sunlight pouring down on them.

The boy who had been holding the switch turned.

“It’s the Royal Wizard. Run everyone!”

Within the space of a few heartbeats, everyone was gone. Everyone, that is, except Solon, who was lying face-down in the dust.

His father walked up to him, knelt down and gently grabbed his upper arm.

“Come, my son. It is all right now. They have gone.”

Solon allowed this father to help him to his feet, wincing at the pain in his back. The old man produced a handkerchief out of a pocket in his robe and gently dabbed his son’s cheek, drying up his tears.

“My son,” said the old man, as he looked down at his boy’s eyes and smiled sweetly. “I am sorry that you had to go through that. We wizards have always had a difficult time fitting in with our peers.”

“But father, why? I just want to be a normal child.”

“Because we are different, my son. And people are afraid of people who are different.”

“They didn’t look very afraid to me!” said Solon. His voice broke a little in anger as he said it, and his hands balled into fists.

“Solon, calm down.” Said his father, curtly.

Solon took a step back, shocked at the sudden change in his father’s tone.

The old man sighed, deliberately softened his tone, and continued: “You showed great resilience today, and for that I am proud of you. But you almost did something unthinkable. Something that you would’ve regretted for the rest of your life."

Solon snapped at his father, his voice now a high pitch. “And what would’ve been wrong with that? I just wanted to teach them all a lesson. I wasn’t going to kill anyone. What was the harm in a little lightning storm?”

“But you could have killed people, boy. Perhaps even yourself! I have told you how dangerous and unpredictable magic can be. You are still young, and don’t know how to use it properly. But even I, with all my years of training and practice, would balk at attempting what you were trying to do. It is simply too dangerous. Magic should…”

“Magic should only be performed in a calm, private environment, surrounded by the proper tomes and the proper focus,” finished Solon, reciting the mantra that had been drummed into his head since before he could talk.

Solon’s father smiled. He looked at his son, put both hands on his shoulders, and said, “My son, you are going to make a great wizard, one day. Greater perhaps than even I. But I fear you still have a lot to learn.”

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Book Review: Bloodstone by Helen C. Johannes

I thought I'd do something a little different for you this month.

I recently read Bloodstone, by Helen C. Johannes. Having been drawn to the book because of the author's surname (I thought she might've been South African), I will admit to being a little disappointed to find that the book was categorised as Romance. Once I read the description, though, it seemed more Fantasy than Romance to me and, since Fantasy's my preferred genre to read, I picked it up.

Here's the product description:
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?

Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones--petrified dragon's blood--for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can't hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams...

Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father's rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man--not a fiend--hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads (I very seldom give five star ratings. Very seldom indeed). Here's what I had to say about it:
Don't be mad: I'm going to make a sweeping generalisation here. Girls love romance, and boys love fantasy.

If this is true, then Helen C. Johannes has come up with the perfect formula in Bloodstone. There is just enough romance to keep all those "girly-girls" happy, but not too much to detract from the awesomely epic fantasy that is this story.

Like most men, I'm not generally a romance fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's epic fantasy at its most beautiful. The story is deep and complex, the descriptions are vivid, and the characters well constructed.

The writing is very good - nary a typo to be found, and the language is appropriate to the period (which is something that tends to really bother me about most modern fantasy).

I also thought the introduction was just genius. Many TV shows nowadays start with some shocking revelation. A character gets shot, a secret is revealed, and then the next scene starts with "x days/hours earlier". Some of those work well, but I think that particular trope can be overused. Well, this book starts like that. But, far from being frustrating, it worked extremely well. Many of these TV shows could learn a thing or two!

My only gripe with this book is something that I think many fantasy fans will actually see as a good thing: It's long. Or at least, it feels that way. It's the chapters, you see. If, like me, your busy life doesn't allow for much more than twenty minutes a day spent reading, and you're the kind of person who at least likes to finish a chapter in a sitting, you'll be a bit disappointed. Most of these chapters will take you more than a single reading session to finish, and some of them will take you more than two.

But hey, if that's my only complaint, then the author has done a good job. A great one, in fact.
If you're intrigued by my review, and would like to download a free sample or buy it, click here for the book's page on Amazon.